36-year-old Theresa Fredenburg-Hinds suffered from swollen, painful legs her entire life and was always told by doctors that it was due to her weight. A chance encounter with a shop assistant who recognized her symptoms revealed to Theresa the real condition from which she suffered.
Theresa was always told by doctors that her swollen legs were “just fat.”
Ever since she was young, Theresa knew she had suffered from a medical condition that made her legs swell. Despite seeing many doctors, however, she did not get a real diagnosis of her condition. “Lipoedema is often misdiagnosed or overlooked due to fatphobia by the medical community,” wrote Theresa.
The medical condition she believed she had, lipoedema, results in an abnormal buildup of fat in legs and arms, and is mostly common in women. Although Theresa suffered from large legs since the age of 8, it only got more painful as she hit puberty and grew. Her doctors told her she merely suffered from obesity and instructed her to buy compression stockings instead.
A stranger helped her discover her real condition.
Theresa did not receive any validation for her concerns until she went to buy compression stockings and the store assistant pointed out her symptoms. “I went to a specialty store and the woman working there took one look at my legs and told me I had a condition called lipoedema or lymphedema and gave me a pamphlet to give to my doctor,” said Theresa.
“I’d heard of lipoedema and done my own research online, but to have it validated by this kind woman in the store I began to cry tears of joy.” After the encounter, Theresa went back to her doctor but was told once again that she was “just obese.” This time though, she didn’t give up and consulted with a specialist instead, who gave her an official diagnosis of lipo-lymphedema, a combination of lipoedema and lymphedema.
She now spreads awareness about lipedema by sharing her experience.
Theresa is now raising awareness online about lipoedema as well as body positivity. “Society has moved to a love of more curvy bodies, which does make living with lipoedema a little bit easier for me at least,” she said. While she has to deal with day-to-day problems like people staring in public and ableism, Theresa says people are now more understanding. Theresa is now working on sharing her experience with others who might suffer from a similar condition.
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