Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Bye bye skinnies

Lately, my leg has been bigger. I have a feeling it’s a mixture of increased stress, less sleep, increased exercise, and I need to replace my wraps. With the bigger leg, I said bye bye to my skinny jeans and to my leggings much of the time too. So here I am again at the question that has baffled women for ages, "what should I wear?"

With the recession, I am guessing you are like me and have to be a budget shopper. Depending on how bad your lymphedema is, I think you can still look great when you're going out with your friends even when your leg acts up. Don't do what I used to do...that is, begin a full on attack against your closet--throwing your clothes all over the floor and bed and then surrendering with a collapse on the ground defeated.

We (lymphies) should stay away from heels most of the time. I do, however, think if you have kitten heels and aren’t running all over the city that you should wear them for the office or out with friends for a few hours. Please stay away from 3 to 5 inch heels. We all know we have trouble balancing and walking as it is without adding extra inches that could really hurt us.

So my favorite 4 items to have for a fail-safe outfit:

1. Kitten heels
2. Boot cut jeans
3. Belt
4. Slimming black top or any color really

The heels. Bandalino. I am sure other brands are good but I have never found another shoe that is affordable and doesn’t kill my feet. I think the kitten heel is about 1 inch-maybe 1.5. Its small but it’s just enough to give you a nice dressed up look. The trick is, don’t ever pay more than $30 for these shoes. On occasion they are $40. If you go to a place like DSW or Off Broadway, you can usually get them majorly discounted. The great thing is that these shoes last. My first pair I got for working retail and that pair lasted all the way from retail and foot fatness to job interviews to going out with friends. I think I have had them about 2.5 years and they still look good. I just got my second pair for the holidays. Even with my swollen foot, they didn’t hurt. I didn’t have to go up a size so it actually fits both feet and they look great.

The jeans. H&M. They have all different sizes and all lengths. I got the boot cut ones and they fit great. They are $40 not on sale so they really aren’t too badly priced compared to all those fancy and overprices department store jeans.

The belt. I got this as part of my uniform for retail but any belt will do. I would stick to the basic colors like black or brown so it can go with more. Mine is a patent leather wide belt that I wear higher on my waist to make my waist appear thinner. It works!

The top. Really any top will do. A flowy silk one, a dressier t shirt, a flowy tank, etc. Any color will do too. Well stay away from yellow and black, you don’t want to look like a bumble bee.

Add accessories. Add a necklace, bracelets, earrings etc. You don’t have to go wild. You could wear a pair of bright, funky earrings and then nothing else. Just add a little something to the outfit with jewelry and it will look nice.

So that is my opinion on the fail-safe outfit for us lymphies.

Fitness goals

With a new job comes a hell of a lot of stress. Just kidding—sort of. With the new job I landed, I was finally able to afford a gym membership. Did it have the miraculous result on my leg I thought it would have? No, but the rest of me is looking better!
I do think that exercise is one of the most important ways to manage lymphedema. It is difficult though, that is for sure. If you read my older posts, you’d see that I used to be a runner so I used to love exercise. If you met me, you’d know how neurotic I am and therefore, how imperative it is that I use that use exercise to take me down a few notches…

Things have changed though since my days of running. I have this extra weight from my leg that I didn’t have before and it can make exercising really difficult. I honestly think that if I put too much pressure on myself or scheduled overly specific goals for my exercise I would fail horribly and disappoint myself. I never know how my leg will be on a given day. Some days my leg doesn’t bother me at all while others I can only go 3.5 mph on the treadmill. Then other times, I get a little too excited and then overdo it which can be painful and increase the swelling.

I think setting realistic goals for exercise is extremely important. You want goals but with lymphedema, you have to know when to modify those goals. I usually go for 3-4 miles with a combination of the elliptical and the treadmill. On days that my leg feels good, I try to beat my typical time so that I can complete more miles in a shorter time frame. When my leg is not feeling so good, I will keep my time on the elliptical short with maybe only a mile on there and then I will move to the treadmill and do another mile or two on their depending on my leg. I will get this pain in my calf, it’s not intense but more like a stiffness that is incredibly uncomfortable. I always lower my speed and then try to walk it off. If that doesn’t work, I try to get to 2 to 2.5 miles and then I call it quits.

Today, my leg is aching and massive because I flew from Florida last night to Chicago and my leg isn’t taking the pressure change so well. I can actually feel the heat of my foot from the outside of my boot. I am going to the gym today because I enjoyed the holiday food and cookies a bit too much. I would love to get in there and have a hard core workout but that’s not going to happen because walking to work was a challenge today. So I am going to do my mile on the elliptical and then get on the treadmill. If my leg is feeling good, I will aim for 2 more miles on the treadmill at a moderate pace.

My point in all this babbling is that it’s good to set goals but for people with lymphedema, you have to understand your body’s limitations and modify your goals accordingly.

I have a few goals for myself with exercise:

1. Increase energy level
2. Build up enough strength to start doing yoga again without really embarrassing myself…
3. Tone my body up so I can wear my speedo without scarring the other members
4. Be healthy

One note about exercising with lymphedema. I think that we are all vulnerable to exhaustion because of our condition. If you try too much too fast, you will wear yourself down. Take it easy, the energy will come with time and the more you can accomplish at the gym or whatever your fitness goals are.

My next big to-do is to cut back on sugar. And I really love sugar! I will have more posts about my sugar withdrawals as I start to cut it (well lower it, let’s not get crazy…) from my diet.

Some Time Away

I'd like to say that I haven't devoted much time to my blog because I got a new job or because my ancient computer finally died but I think the real reason that I haven't posted is because sometimes I like to ignore the fact that I have lymphedema. I don't want to think about it or talk about it despite the daily reminder that is, well, my leg.

I was avoiding my 'medical condition' wonderfully (that is, I continued to care for my leg but just pretended I was normal) when I found my medical reports from the surgery I had when I was in my early twenties. That's when a very uneducated doctor decided to cut me open in my lymph node area. The reason was that swelling had begun in my thigh and the lymph nodes in that area were inflamed. This is up for debate but this is either when the doctor gave me secondary lymphedema or worsened my primary lymphedema. Who knows who cares because one thing is for sure—this doctor screwed up my leg. As I was saying, I found the medical report when I went to visit my family in Florida for the holidays. It said that the patient (me) appeared to understand the possible implications of the surgery. One such possible implication was deformity. How vague but nonetheless I burst into tears. I don't recall hearing any statistics on the likelihood of developing lymphedema which is of course a sort of deformity. Were they referring to the tiny scar as a deformity? All I know is that this doctor did not discuss lymphedema with me. Either he was not aware of the condition or didn't fully understand the consequences of disrupting a young girl's (or anyone's) lymphatic system.

And then I cried my eyes out for a while. Thinking about how this will impact me for the rest of my life. I have always wanted to honeymoon in Fiji, somewhere tropical, or on a cruise. Uh, scratch that. I imagine being active during pregnancy-wearing cute pregnancy clothes, going to yoga with other pregnant Moms. Argh, scratch that-I can't even do yoga now because the darn leg is about as flexible as a pile of cement and most likely, I will be on bed rest due to a gargantuan leg. Then I imagined juggling work, babies, and lymphedema. Wrap every night. Physical therapy throughout my lifetime and especially when pregnant. Then I imagine just wanting to wear a dress and more tears poured out.

I may have been avoiding some of these thoughts for a while and then they just broke through like a tsunami.

Luckily, things seemed better in the morning. I know that none of this is "ideal" but we cope-we adapt. Wrapping my leg every night seemed like a torture sentence when my occupational therapists first told me now it’s just annoying but I still do it.

We could all throw our arms up, fall to the ground and stay there-hopeless. But do you know what would happen? You'd get evicted because you didn't pay your rent because you didn't work to make money and then you'd be out on the street alone. Why alone? Because you let your limb(s) dictate the quality of your relationships with others. Instead of braving the world, you sat alone inside with your limb(s) and from experience I can tell you, it’s not all that great of a companion. And you know what would happen next? Well then your health would deteriorate because you couldn't take care of yourself and then life would be gone.

So, my point, get off the floor. Go to work. Pay your bills. Go on dates. Hang out with friends. Get married (hopefully all of us, regardless of sexual orientation can do this someday). Go on honeymoon in Fiji even with a big leg. Have kids. Have grandkids. Take care of yourself and leave this world old and wrinkled.