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Who wears short shorts???

July 17, 2017
me beach

PHOTO: Me during my Florida vacation in 2010. You can tell that the left leg is a little chunky already, but at that point, I did not know why. Now I know it is lymphedema. Here’s hoping I can be this brave and show a little leg at the beach seven years later!

Well, not me that much anymore.

I am hoping to change that after my upcoming vacation to North Carolina. And before some of you get too excited … not ~that~ short!

As I sat in our guest room with my suitcase the other day, I realized I had a dilemma. I had already tossed a few pairs of long pants and some maxi skirts into the suitcase, gearing up for a long-deserved vacation, when I realized I quickly was running out of room. In that moment, it hit me how much has changed since the last time I packed for a long-term vacation in 2010.

After I was properly diagnosed with lymphedema in my left leg in 2011, I drastically changed my wardrobe. No more cute, little skirts (my sister inherited all of those). No more open toe shoes. No more shorts in public (I define “public” as in front of anyone who is not in my immediate family). Why did I decide to hide what my husband affectionately refers to as my “ham hock leg and sausage toes”? It was not primarily out of shame … it was more to spare others from the instinctive need to stare and ask, “did you know your (leg/foot) is swollen?!” But I will admit that it was partly out of fear of being seen as “different,” “deformed” or “damaged” in some way.

After living with lymphedema for nearly nine years — three years of which were spent undergoing countless tests and misdiagnoses until I was told what my disease actually is in 2011 — I still find it difficult to uncover a little bit. So as I stared at my suitcase, it dawned on me that I was packing 10 days’ worth of clothing for a five-day beach excursion. Anxiety was driving the need to toss more layers into my bag. My husband and I will be with his family at a beautiful beach house on the North Carolina coast, and with the beach being semi-private, I will not mind showing a little leg while enjoying the sand and sun. But all the other possible destinations have my mind racing. What will I wear when we are hanging on the porch or in the house? What will I wear if everyone decides to go out for a night on the town? What will I wear if we decide to just take a walk? I may be too concerned with making other people uncomfortable with my jeans and Army-style boots in 90-ish, high-humidity weather, but I also know that I should probably dress to be cool rather than dress to hide my leg.

I often wish I were one of those “screw what others think” kind of people. That would be so much easier. But I am me, and “me” is a worrier. I probably still will stick to mostly long skirts and pants when leaving the beach house, as I do in the work environment or at social functions. I actually have added to my wardrobe with some adorable palazzo pants, and I actually found some that do not look like pajamas. But when on the beach or at the house with my husband’s family — who probably should count as “immediate family” for this instance after three years of marriage — I’m going to challenge myself to don some shorts and teach others about lymphedema if/when they ask why the leg is so chunky. Of course, I will keep in mind that I can’t expose the affected limb to too much sun, that I have to wear my sunscreen, and that I must elevate the leg whenever possible. But the main goal is to relax, be comfortable, and have fun! All I want to worry about this vacation is sleeping in, soaking in a little sun, and sipping some adult beverages. If I end up spreading some awareness about this disease, even better.


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