Real Life

Real life: How this 67-year-old woman conquered Lipoedema

Do you think I'd choose to look like this?

By Lauren Irvine

Elizabeth Ayres, 67, from Mount Louisa, QLD shares her true life story:

I glanced into the shop window and gasped at the sight of my own reflection.
Am I really that big? I despaired, staring at the shadowy figure with wide, shapeless legs.
I could see I'd put on more weight. I was up to a size 24 in pants.
In desperation I signed up to a weight loss challenge and managed to shift 14kg in six months.
I was thrilled, but I just couldn't seem to shift the pockets of fat around the tops of my legs.
Now it just made the problem seem bigger! They felt tender, too.
"I give up," I sighed to my husband, Rex.
I put the weight back on and a few months later, suffered an infected mosquito bite on my foot that turned septic.
After a stint in hospital, I visited an occupational therapist who took a look at my swollen legs.
"You might have lymphedema," she said, explaining a blocked lymphatic system could be to blame.
Tests confirmed it, but the therapist at my lymphedema clinic said the problem could be something more.
"It might be Lipoedema," she said, explaining that abnormal fat cells build up in the legs and are resistant to weight loss.
Before the operation.
Back home, I found the Lipoedema Australia support network online and learnt there were thousands of women just like me.
Some had opted for surgery to remove the excess fat but it cost so much. I knew Rex and I couldn't afford it.
I put up with the pain until one day, a lady on the train refused to sit next to me.
"Too fat," she muttered, moving farther down the crowded carriage.
I was so rattled, I just sat there in shock.
Did she think I chose to be like this?
Months later, I was at a Lipoedema Australia conference and met women who'd undergone the fat-removal procedure.
"I can finally run after the grandkiddies," one said.
By now I was struggling to walk and my knees had developed osteoarthritis.
Back home, I told Rex about the surgery.
"If it'll give you your life back, it's worth it," he said. "I just want you to be happy."
So we worked out a budget to pay the minimum $30,000 for surgery and associated costs, and I booked in to have the excess fat removed across four different operations.
All up, the doctors removed six litres from my legs.
Some of the fat removed from my legs.
It's been two years since, and even though I'll never have 'normal' legs, I've got a whole new lease on life.
The lasting impact of the lipoedema means I'll need to have both my knees replaced.
But I have loads more energy for Rex and I to do the things we love.
By sharing my story I'm hoping to create awareness about lipoedema so that women who are suffering can recognise the condition and seek help.
You don't have to suffer alone.

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