2020 was a year none of us will forget. The world will be reeling from the loss of life, livelihoods and almost anything “normal” for years to come but, in amongst all that sadness, little flashes of kindness, inspiration and joy sparkle like stars on a clear summers night, bringing fresh hope to us all.
As a family, we were obviously affected by the pandemic. Both children were at important stages of their academic journeys, the girl child was due to take her GCSEs and the boy child his SATs, and Mr F had to adapt the services he provided through our businesses. Along with countless others, our holidays and family get togethers were rescheduled and we all tried to embrace the silver linings that the enforced slower pace of life brought.
As a Functional Introvert (thank you to Dawn French for introducing me to this excellent description of myself in audible’s Locked Together podcast) lockdown has mostly been a breeze. Obviously I have desperately missed seeing those I love, especially my wonderful Mum; have felt the worry for those who have been ill and, sadly, grieved with friends who’ve lost loved ones but, putting that aside, being told that I HAD to stay at home suited me fine. In fact, enforced lockdown and the subsequent decrease in my activity probably saved, at the very least my quality of life and possibly my actual life too!
Last summer, after weeks of not really walking very far or very often, I decided enough was enough and I was going to get moving. The girl and boy childs wanted to get a Frappuccino from Costa, so I decided to join them on a walk into town. Between my shocking lack of fitness and the extreme heat that day, it turned from a jaunty trot into town into a test of my endurance! My entire body ached and my legs began to swell. I spent the next few days on the sofa with my legs up while my aching muscles eased and the swelling decreased. However, as the rest of my body improved, my lower left leg did not. If anything, it go worse.
On August 31st, after a week of worry about my increasingly swollen and painful left leg, I had a telephone appointment with one of the brilliant doctors at our surgery. She said if I felt there was even a 1% chance that I believed I had a clot, I should go to hospital. Although a bit scary, this was great advice so I took myself off to A&E. A couple of hours and a positive blood test later, I was heading home with anticoagulant tablets and an appointment for a scan on my leg.
Within 24 hours of starting the anticoagulants, the swelling and pain began to reduce. However, as I was able to put more pressure on my leg, the knee started to give way with increasing frequency. I was convinced my knee kept dislocating (I have since been told by my physio that when muscles are underused they weaken quickly and can sometimes “switch off” for a second or two and, in my case, cause the leg to buckle) and started searching the internet to see if it was possible. While looking at images of dislocations and realising I was clearly not suffering from a repeatedly dislocating knee, I saw a photo that looked just like my arms.
Curious, I followed the link and found photos that looked very much like my legs.
The NHS Lipoedema page gives the following description of the condition:
“Lipoedema is an abnormal build-up of fat in your legs and sometimes arms. It can be painful and affect daily life, but there are things you can do that may help.”
I had never heard of Lipoedema (Lipedema in America) but as I read the information on the NHS website and the two charity sites it had links to, Lipoedema UK and Talk Lipoedema, I could not believe it! I was certain that I had this condition and that I’d had it since at least my early teens.
Further research revealed that one of the comorbidities people with Lipoedema often have is hyper mobility, which I had heard of and had gathered a lot of information about prior to getting the blood clot. I had been researching hyper mobility, more specifically Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (EDS), as I believe that the girl child may have it. Both Lipoedema and hyper mobility/EDS fall under the category of connective tissue disorders, hence the link between the two, and are also thought to be hereditary. The more research I did, the more sense I made of my own situation – it was and still is a revelation!
So back to the blood clot – what happened? Thankfully when I had my scan it showed that it had “resolved” and I was able to stop the medication. How did it save my life? Well, without it and that first lockdown, I may never have learnt about Lipoedema, how to manage it, how to (hopefully) stop it progressing and therefore increased my quality of life and reduced the likelihood of loosing my mobility, gaining huge amounts of weight and risking all the negative consequences of being morbidly obese.
I plan on writing more posts about Lipoedema, hyper mobility and my journey to (hopefully) a diagnosis of both, along with lessons I’m learning about how to manage the conditions using exercise, self care and intermittent fasting so make sure to pop back!