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Life After Lipedema Surgery

Hi everyone – it’s Cat again!

If you haven’t read my story or seen any of my videos before, I’m a long-time patient of Dr. Wright and am working towards completing a total of five Lipedema liposuction surgeries with him. I’ve put together some helpful tips and a bit about my story, and you can find all my videos on Dr. Wrights YouTube channel.

My Lipedema Experience infographic featuring Cat

At the end of February, I hit the one-year mark since undergoing my second Lipedema surgery. My initial goal was to get all five surgeries completed within one year of being diagnosed (in October 2019). However, thanks to COVID-19 and life and money and insurance unhelpful companies, here I am; It’s already March of 2021, and I’m praying I can get a third surgery done soon! Until then, I want to continue helping women like me who are struggling with Lipedema, in the hopes that I can show you the light at the end of the tunnel, and help make the journey a little less overwhelming! In the video below and through this post, I’ll take you through what my life has been like since recovering from my 2nd surgery, and what it’s like being half-healed; I’m living in the in-between of some areas being treated while others are still in the midst of the struggle.

 

My Treatment Plan

After being officially diagnosed and working on non-surgical treatments, I met with Dr. Wright and his team to determine what surgeries I would need and on what areas of my body. We determined that I had Lipedema swelling and fat in my legs, abdomen, and arms, and would need a total of five surgeries: My legs, abdomen, front of my thighs, back of my thighs + buttocks, and my calves. I completed the front of my thighs in December 2019 and the back of my thighs and buttocks in February 2020. I had about 8 liters of fat removed in the first Lipedema removal surgery, and 12 liters (INSANE) in my 2nd surgery. To give you an idea of this volume, 8 liters is about 2 gallons of fat. So between the two, I’m free of a huge amount of lippy fat and am about 35 pounds lighter.

The Liposuction Machine used for Cat's Procedure

Because I live in Austin and Dr. Wright’s office is in St. Louis, the COVID-19 pandemic has made continuing surgeries difficult. His expertise, kindness, and genuine passion for helping women like us make the travel well worth it under any other circumstances, but we’re trying to be extremely cautious with flights. Over the last year, my partner and I have even thought about making the 13-hour drive to his office rather than continuing to wait, but the thought of riding in a car post-surgery is daunting.

Picture illistrating Cat's progress through the procedure

In mid-march, I have a virtual consultation with Dr. Wright to touch base and make plans for my 3rd surgery, this time focused on my calves. I’m so excited to get the next phase rolling, and hoping that the world calms down and allows for safe travel soon!

Recovering from Surgery

My first and second surgery recoveries were actually extremely different. While the overall process and the surgeries themselves were all the same, I needed a week to recover the first time, and about two weeks to recover the second time. My backside was a bit harder to recover from due to the large volume of fat that was taken, and simply because sitting and laying down was more uncomfortable. I was able to drive, work, and get back to most of my routine within a few days, but I preferred to take it easy for the full two weeks because I was still leaking tumescent fluid, and putting on those compression garments is tough for the first two weeks (more like the first 6 weeks, just to set your expectations…) – I preferred to do this in the comfort of my home for as long as possible.

Cat post procedure with a blanket

Interestingly, in the first surgery, I had a lot of numbness on the inside of my thighs, which lasted about a month. Numbness is completely normal after liposuction as your nerves start to heal, so it wasn’t necessarily worrisome, but it was uncomfortable. It made walking extremely uncomfortable and, to the delight of my friends and family, I waddled like a duck for several weeks. So even though I spent more time on the couch after my second surgery, I still “enjoyed” it far more than the first. It’s just proof that every area of the body and every patient is different. But I loved the end results of both!

Life After Lipedema Surgery

As I sit here today, I find myself in a funny limbo in regards to living with my lipedema. The already-treated areas of my legs are doing great! No bruising, no swelling, and no sensitivity at all. In fact, my thighs even feel different to the touch – the remaining fat (I’m no bodybuilder yet, haha) is soft and fluffy – something I’ve never experienced before. The only fat I’ve ever encountered has been dominated by my lipedema fat – firm or tight, bulging, and sore.

But because I’m mid-treatment overall, the remaining areas of my body are still very much experiencing the pain of lipedema. The tops of my legs are great, and the bottom of my legs are struggling. My arms and abdomen are progressing and gaining more fluid and lipedema fat. As I work out, I get excited to see small changes in my thighs and depressed seeing no changes in the other parts of my body. When I bump into something with my calf and I get a pang of pain, I get angry and then grateful when I realize I can’t remember the last time I felt that in my thighs. It’s so many mental and physical feelings and changes all at once!

Other Positive Changes Post Lipedema Surgery

There are so many things that anyone outside of the lippy community wouldn’t think twice about but have had a profound and positive impact on my life post-surgery.

 

  • Yoga Practice: I no longer need many of the adjusted positions I once did. I can fully stretch my legs, cross my knees or use hard-surfaced yoga blocks that used to be too painful to use.

 

  • Stretching & Foam Rolling: While similar to my experience with yoga, I am getting a much better full-body stretch before and after my workouts, simply because it’s more comfortable for me to be able to do it! My personal trainer used to have me foam roll for half an hour before and after my workouts, and this was so painful at times that it brought me to tears. While he attributed this to me “needed to get better stretches in”, in reality, this was literal torture as the foam roller pushed up against the large lipoma-like balls of lipedema fat. Just thinking about those moments still gives me the chills. But now my foam roller is my best friend before and after my workouts, and in retrospect, the “bad advice” my trainer gave me previously is working well for me now.

 

  • Sleep: This is a biggy. I sleep SO much more soundly now. It’s still not uncommon that I have to get up 2 or 3 days a night to use the restroom, but the sleep I do get is far less tossing and turning, and I can sleep on my side or my back without any problems. I’m a side sleeper by nature, but because of the discomfort that came from laying in one position for too long, I’d have to switch positions often and would wake up feeling like my entire body was one large bruise. But now, my hips and thighs are completely fine. I still have soreness in the rest of my body, but nothing compared to what it once was!

 

  • Overall Mobility & Comfort: In addition to more comfortable sleep, I’m generally just more comfortable! I can sit for several hours straight if I need to, which was unheard of before. My back used to hurt constantly and was definitely made up of weak muscles. Now that I can get a better workout in more regularly and my upper legs are stronger and less sore, my back muscles are stronger, my posture is better, and I’m generally getting through my workday with less stress on my body.

 

How Can I Help You?

As I move into my next three surgeries, I’m sure I’ll have more updates! But until then, what questions do you have about my lipedema journey or the general process for getting treatment? Leave a comment or contact Dr. Wright and his team, and we’d be more than happy to put together more resources for you! We’re all in this together!

All the best,

Cat