Kimm Ehlen, Lymphoedema Advocate Talks "Chronic Motivation" for Lymphoedema Awareness Week
With thanks to Kimm and www.mylymph.com (original source)
Kimm Ehlen taken in 2014 pre super microsurgery
Thirty six lymph nodes from Kimm's groin were tested and they all came back cancer free. She went on to have a radical hysterectomy, but had no further treatment. Immediately after surgery, she developed some slight swelling in her left ankle. She had been told about Lymphoedema, but did not have any interest in listening.
"Ten years after my cancer I developed lymphedema in my left leg, I was out of the country in 2013 and got a cellulitis infection, which made my lymphedema progress to the rest of my leg and hip. My leg and ankle doubled in size and I no longer could fit a shoe on my foot, or fit any of my normal pants over my leg. It became hard to walk, run or do the activities that I loved.
Initially being diagnosed with lymphedema made me hide from life, I no longer went to social events, I skipped my son’s soccer games and I felt ugly, sad, and hopeless. I was in denial that this was a life long disease with no cure in sight. I was in denial that I had to do SO much daily just to manage my leg. I literally turned into a different person, one that I did not like very much. I was also in a lot of discomfort daily, and that was hard to handle, it was hard for my family to handle. It changed everything.
In 2015 I started to become chronically motivated. I decided I could no longer live this way and I started to accept that this was life long disease and I better figure out a way to deal with it and find happiness. I searched high and low for cute clothing that fit my leg, I had to “re-style” myself. I found a few pair of shoes that fit on my fat foot. I decided to hold my chin high and walk out my front door and start living again. I started to eat super healthy, take supplements and be as active as my leg would allow me to be.
I also started to do research, I was not going to sit and let this disease progress anymore. Every day it felt like it was getting worse and becoming harder to manage. I went to visit my lymphedema doctor here in Minnesota and she informed me of successful surgeries that were taking place for lymphedema. I decided to consult with a doctor in California, I was a candidate for three surgeries. I spent the next two years fighting insurance for approval and getting all three surgeries. This was a big under taking, but I knew it was the right thing to do for my leg and for my future. Today my leg is back to normal size ( still have a bit of ankle swelling ) and I am able to wear my regular clothing and shoes. I am able to resume most of my activities that I love and I feel chronically motivated every single day to better my leg, to better my mind and to stay positive.
Kimm's legs after SAPL and then VLNT and LVA - <Click to read about surgeries
I know there are thousands of people out there living with lymphedema and hiding just like I was. I am here to tell you we are in this together, we struggle together, we find hope together, and we share all the good and bad this disease brings. As much as I wish I did not have lymphedema, many gifts have been brought my way because of it. I have met so many amazing people, I have become stronger, braver, and more passionate about life than I ever was before.
To get through each day I will not live without certain things to make my lymphedema feel the best possible. First, my class 3 custom Medivan compression, I love this compression because it does not fall down and can stay in place during activities. Second, I take a class called “Pedal Wild” it is a hour long full body cycling class, my leg feels charged and amazing afterwards, I do this 3x a week. Third, I will not live without coconut oil to keep my leg soft and hydrated. I put it on every night before I go to bed. Fourth, I take Tumeric daily, I find that it is very helpful with the swelling in my leg and ankle.
My best lymphedema tip’s are to eat clean, stay as active as you can, get yourself good compression, surround yourself with supportive and understanding people, find a doctor that knows the disease, drink a ton of water, use social media to reach out to others, learn everything you can about the disease, and know that you are not alone in this struggle. WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER and TOGETHER WE CAN BE CHRONICALLY MOTIVATED."
Kimm Ehlen pictured with her surgeon Dr Jay Granzow