Reflections Tips & Tricks

Daring to Bare

Each day that I combat my fears is another day affirming my self-worth, and those negative voices in my head get that much quieter.

Yesterday, I posted a photo to the Lymphie Life Facebook page of my bare ankles—a very big deal, as fellow lymphies can attest to—and the supportive feedback I received was overwhelming. You all are awesome, and because of all the comments, I wanted to address a couple things:

For those who are struggling to bare their lymphie limbs: It takes time! And lots of positive self-talk to gear yourself up. Something that helps me is to start small: I begin by wearing shorts around the house, then graduate to running errands with them, and then—finally—going to an event or social gathering. Exposing our swollen limbs and compression garments feels like a big deal, but it doesn’t have to be. It just takes a little time and practice to get comfortable doing it. Most people don’t even notice, and even if they do—so what?! Our health and happiness is more important than a stranger’s thoughts or comments. There’s no reason to let our lymphedema—or fear of how other people will perceive us because of our lymphedema—stop us from wearing what we want, or doing certain things, or feeling certain ways about ourselves.

For those who rock their socks on the daily: You all are inspirational, truly! It’s no easy feat to bare what for some of us is our greatest insecurity, and it’s motivating to know that there are lymphies out there who do that regularly. We all have our down days, but it’s the days where we can face our fears head-on that really gives us the push we need to know that it is possible, and, in turn, gives us the strength to do it again. So keep rocking your socks! (Or arm-socks!)

For those asking about my lack of compression garment: I am “in between” garments right now. My current one is a few years old and has lost a lot of its compression, so I need to get a new one. In the meantime, I maintain my lymphedema by keeping my leg elevated whenever possible, avoiding sodium, performing manual lymphatic drainage, and wearing a nighttime compression garment to bed. Replacing my daytime garment is on the top of my to-do list, though, because they are so crucial to daily lymphie maintenance!

Okay, so what prompted me to take the bare-ankles plunge yesterday?

A few months ago, I bought a pair of cropped-ish pants. When I tried them on in the store, my mother was gushing—they look awesome, so cute, you must buy them!—but I was worried about my ankle. The cuffs of the pants were a few inches above my ankle, which, to me, drew the eye directly to the part of my body I try my hardest to hide.

IfWeLiftOurSkirtsTheyLevelTheirEye-glassesAtOurAnkles“You can’t even notice it,” my mother said. “Your leg looks great!”

I trust my mama so I bought the pants, even though I was secretly vowing to myself that I’d only wear them with boots. Trusty, ankle-hiding boots. Everybody wins, right? But yesterday was a little warm outside, and as I was getting dressed, I looked at the pants and thought, Why not wear them with flip-flops? Why not just try?

It was a crazy thought, but not an impossible one.

I put on the pants, then slid on a pair of flip-flops. It was the first day in a looooong time that I wore anything exposing my leg, and I was nervous about doing it. I wasn’t going anywhere special—just running some errands—but before I left the house, I was obsessively checking myself out in the mirror. Was it obvious? Would people notice?

I asked my partner what he thought:

“Well, I know it’s there,” he said. “But really—you can barely notice it at all. Even if I didn’t know about it, I wouldn’t notice it.”

As much as I logically knew he was right, my mind was screaming otherwise. However, I know myself well enough to realize that when I’m uncomfortable, it’s a sign that I need to push forward and do whatever it is that is making me so anxious, i.e. wear the damn cropped pants. And so I did! And I’m so glad I did, too, because it reminded me that I am capable of facing my fears and conquering them. (At least for the day.)

My insecurities haven’t magically disappeared because of what I did yesterday. I have always struggled with body image issues, and I acknowledge that I probably always will. But each day that I combat my fears is another day affirming my self-worth, and those negative voices in my head get that much quieter.

cropped pantsBecause, hey—I have lymphedema. My leg, ankle, and foot are a little puffy. So what? It doesn’t define me or change who I am, and it doesn’t make me less of a worthwhile person. It also doesn’t mean I can’t wear certain clothes if I want to, because my body isn’t shameful. And neither is yours.

So dare to bare a little! Push yourself out of your comfort zone; transform your fear into action and see what happens. You might surprise yourself.


24 comments on “Daring to Bare

  1. Noreen O Connor

    I am 62 year old woman with lymphedema of right leg ,you are a beautiful girl. Noreen

    Sent from my iPad


    • Hi Alex, I just read your articleI won’t feel the bulk of the on “Daring to bare” or “baring your lymphie limb” as I call it-I too have lymphedema in my left leg–My goodness, I couldn’t tell from the picture that you had LE–we are all so critical of ourselves but I understand your feeling about not wanting anyone to see your leg. I have had LE in my left leg for 2 1/2 years and my left ankle is about 2 inches bigger than my right ankle which is still normal. I think you look fabulous! Gorgeous!!

      I myself am extremely critical about my appearance, too. I have stayed in shape my whole life and when the LE started 2 1/2 years ago I was my own worst enemy -I couldn’t stop crying for the first year, wondering how could my body have disappointed me like that?? I still will not wear a skirt or dress or anything that shows my left leg because I know the difference is visible-my left thigh is about 2 inches bigger than my right thigh- the left calf is 2 inches bigger than the right calf–At least my jeans still fit although my left leg looks/feels a bit more snug than the right leg. I have not gone to the beach in 2 years, I really can’t buy shoes other than sneakers (luckily I wear those to work since I am a nurse in a hospital here in CT.) my life has been in semi-hold till I can get this surgical procedure by Dr. David Chang in the spring–Thank God he is in network with my insurance Company– I have finally realized I could wear the Jobst 20-30 mm hg compression panty hose under my jeans and sort of feel “normal” I use the flexi touch apparatus at night (sometimes) and compression stockings all day–the difficulty I have in in the summer when I want to go outside and throw on those Bermuda shorts or those Khaki pants without any thick stockings underneath–in 95 degree heat the last thing I want is a pair of heavy thick stockings under my shorts. But that is what I have to do. I just try to ‘suck it up and stop complaining” but it’s so difficult at times, as I’m sure all of us lymphies can understand. I want the freedom of my life back,

      I have done my research and although I am nervous about this surgical procedure, I’ve been told that the ankle will get softer pretty quickly and the leg will feel softer with application of the compression garment occurring with more ease. I’ve been told the measurement of the leg (which is my main concern) will diminish in time-the question is “how much”? I’ll be happy to be able to slip into the shoes I once wore- and see my ankle bone again-At the beginning of this ordeal, I didn’t know what size shoes to buy-I thought my foot grew in length-It did not grow in length-I still wear a 7 1/2 shoe but what has changed is my foot is more swollen-I have to wear shoes with enough “give” so it doesn’t cause calluses. My left leg has not seen sunlight since the summer of 2011. I was diagnosed with LE in December of 2011.

      I went to the University of Chicago Medical Center and had my evaluation with Dr. Chang in Sept. It is just a matter of arranging time-off from my job and being scheduled into Dr. Chang’s OR schedule. I’m nervous but excited–

      All of you are what kept me sane as I cried my way through 2 years of feeling like I wanted to hide. What I learned is the comfort zone (hiding) is not always the growth zone. As I started to put those compression tights on and go to the gym with no one noticing ANYTHING, I started saying to myself, “Get over yourself!” and “OMG you can do this–this lymphedema thing is not bigger than you”. Nothing is unless you allow it to be. My husband says the same response to me that your partner says to you-“I know it’s there but I don’t really notice it-“-Men are far less critical of themselves than women are.

      Kudos to you, girlfriend-you are reclaiming your life and you look “Mavelous” as some great actress once said!!!-BTW I too am a cat lover–2 saves are residing with me and my husband–love the furry little creatures with attitude. Love , Liz

      • Thanks for your comment, Liz! I totally agree with what you said about having felt like your body disappointed you by developing lymphedema—it felt like a betrayal to me, too, at first. But we adjust, and power through! If we don’t treat our bodies with love and care then it will only get worse. It sounds like you’re doing a great job caring for yours now. I love what you said about the lymphedema is not bigger than we are, and that nothing is unless we allow it to be. You have a great attitude! Keep it up :)

        Best of luck with your procedure! Please keep us posted!

    • Thank you, Noreen, and thanks for reading!

  2. Reblogged this on My Lymph Node Transplant and commented:
    Thanks to The Lymphie Life for reminding us that Lymphedema should not define us or stop us from doing anything we want to do.. . Reblogging this as a reminder to all.. Thanks

  3. So glad I found this blog, my 12 year old son was born with lymphedema in his left leg and foot. Can’t wait for him to read this blog! Thank you!

  4. You are a very pretty girl, nobody pays attention to your foot!

    • Aw thank you, I sure hope they don’t! Sometimes I get comments or questions about it, though, and it used to really upset me but now I look at it as an opportunity to spread a little awareness about lymphedema! Turning negatives into positives :)

  5. Sherry Hobbs

    Hello Alexa, You are adorable and I am glad that you don’t let lymphedema affect your self esteem. I do wonder though about your comment that you are “in between” compression garments and yours is several years old. Compression garments made by Juzo, Mediven, Sigvaris and Jobst can be purchaced on line for about $80 a pair.(Yes they are expensive but last for 6 months) Off brands can be $25 to $30 a pair. The elevation and MLD that you do to reduce the leg needs to be maintained and held with the compression stocking . I urge you to get some quickly and replace them regularly. I wear the open toe in a beige so I can wear sandals and they are easier to put on. Rarely does anyone notice and I feel secure that my leg is protected and compressed. You will also protect your leg from scratches and bites that can cause cellulitis! Please go on on line and get a new pair today dear Alexa!

    • Hi, Sherry! You make a very good point—I’ll go online and order a new one right away. I can’t believe I’ve gone this long without it. I remember how good they made my leg feel and it would be great to have that again. Thank you so much!

    • That is a great idea about wearing the open toe Jobst-I haven’t tried them yet-only the closed toe ones. I’ve had LE for 2 1/2 yrs and each summer is my worst time of the year whereas before the LE, I was always a lover of spring and summer and all those seasons had to offer-Each summer I feel imprisoned by the stockings but maybe next summer, I’ll try the open toe jobst so my toes can breathe a bit. I’m still trying to find my way-

      You all have been so helpful with your ideas and suggestions. I don’t know how I would have gotten through this last 2 years if I hadn’t discovered this blog. When I first started reading it, I felt like ,”someone finally understands what I’m going thru!” It truly has helped me and I’m hoping I too can help those folks who are new to LE. Thank you for sharing-Liz

      • I’m so glad you’ve gotten so much from the blog. I love the community that has come out of it! It’s so easy to think we are alone in this, because it’s really not something that’s talked about, even by our own doctors. But the truth is, there are SO many of us out there, and we are all invaluable to each other in providing support, hope, and—yes—sometimes even a little commiseration ;)

  6. Those are some good lookin’ feet, girl, if you ask me! I have gone through uterine cancer. I do not suffer from lymphodema yet I would be hard pressed to post a pic of my tootsies. :) Good on you! You are most correct as well that the condition that you are inflicted with does not in any way define who you are.

    When I shaved my head last year, while there was fear initially, I found it incredibly liberating.

    And while treatment has ravaged my body to some degree, the goal has and always will be to appreciate each day and try to give to this world in the most postive and loving manner possible.

    • Hi, Nancy! Thanks for your comment. I think what you shared is intensely relatable—the idea that releasing our insecurities can be liberating, and to appreciate each day that we have. Thank you so much for sharing, and congratulations on getting through cancer! That’s huge, and I think the mindset you’ve reached is so positive and healing :)

  7. OMG Thank you so much for this inspiring post! I like how lymph bloggers can relate to each others stories. It gets frustating from time to time when people who dont know or understand about my condition ask ” why are you always wearing closed shoes? Why dont you ever wear shorts or cropped pants? ”
    You have made my day! =) Lots of love from South Africa

  8. Reblogged this on LymphMe and commented:
    I dread hot summer days coz I lack the confidence to expose my legs..
    This is INSPIRATIONAL ! Our health and happiness is more important than a stranger’s thoughts or comments.

  9. I also have lymphedema in my left leg. It’s been 13 years, a long time for sure. I identify with many of the comments, which I found inspiring and uplifting. The hiding, the covering up, the reluctance and embarrassment about wearing skirts unless they are long and can wear boots , etc., etc. It feels comforting to know that others share similar experiences and feelings.

  10. Pingback: Summer Capsule Day Ten: Pants Manifesto, or Dealing with Separate-Light Capsules | Kala's Colourful Capsule

  11. hi Alexa, love this article- it is so spot on how it feels!
    i see myself quite lucky when it comes to lymphedema, since both my legs are equally swollen, but i still feel really self conscious about it. Trying to run a lifestyle -fashion blog, i often get comments on it, and feel that i have to work harder to make it though than other bloggers. Thank you for talking about it! its a subject unknown to so many people!

    • Hi Anndrea,

      I’m so glad you enjoyed this post! I can only imagine how hard it must be to try to run a fashion blog but have people focus on your legs instead… I would be annoyed, feeling as though people were missing the whole point! What a wonderful opportunity to spread a little awareness about lymphedema, though. Perhaps a quick sentence or two on your “About” page will be enough to answer any questions your readers might have, so they can focus on your fashion and style rather than your legs. You are not a lymphedema patient who happens to have a fashion blog: you are a fashion blogger who happens to have lymphedema. There’s a difference! :)

      Your photos are gorgeous, by the way. I know, for me, I often feel like I “can’t” dress in certain clothing because of my swelling, and instead I reach for whatever will hide my leg best. I think your photos are important and inspiring, because they show those of us with self-confidence issues (like myself!) that it’s not that we “can’t” wear certain things, but that we are choosing not to—we really can wear whatever we want! I’m glad that you are not letting the “can’ts” get in the way of what you wear, because you look fabulous in your outfits!

      I will definitely be bookmarking your site!!

      Be well and stay elevated,
      xx Alexa

  12. Hi ladies. I have had ten years of lymphedema in my left leg. I don’t even think about it any more. It’s just a part of me. Do remember the open toe thigh high, (I like Juzo) and they come in petite (short- I’m 5’5′ and it’s perfect) and Silver which I recently discovered. It’s made with real silver to prevent infection (we are of course in danger of getting cellulitis because of the protein in lymph so close to the surface) . Once you get cellulitis it comes more frequently. An infectious disease specialist I went to after the first bout, put me on a regiment of penicillin (one a day forever). So ladies, please remember to wear a stocking always. It holds the lymph from swelling during the day and helps protect you from scratches etc. that could lead to infection. Take care: No more dare to bare! :-)

  13. You can get colours now! I have green and batik purple. I feel like I have at last, become me 😀

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