A Lymphie’s Guide to the Workplace

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Ever since I graduated from college I’ve had the standard 9-5ish desk job. Translation = I spend at least 8 hours a day sitting at a desk. At one point it was more like 10 hours, but thankfully currently it’s a pretty solid 8.

We’ve all heard about the health hazards of sitting, but why is it harmful for lymphedema (particularly lower extremity lymphedema)? As I’ve mentioned before, the lymphatic system is twice the size of the cardiovascular system yet does not have it’s own pump (the cardiovascular system has the heart). So, the lymphatic system relies on help from outside sources: this help primarily comes from muscle movement that pushes the lymph through the body and gravity (when used to your advantage) encourages lymph fluid to be drained.

I’ve found that sitting has three major negative effects on lymph fluid flow:

  1. Creates blockages: One of the largest collections of lymph nodes are found in the groin. When you sit, the lymph nodes in your groin are compressed and a bent hose effect inhibits the flow of lymph fluid from the legs to the stomach (you know when you bend a hose and the water stops flowing? this is a similar idea).
  2. Gravity, gravity, gravity: When you sit, gravity works against any chance your lymph fluid had at getting from your toes to your stomach.
  3. Prolongs immobility: This last one is quite simple–when you’re sitting, you’re not moving. The move you move, the more you help lymph fluid flow through your body.

Through my years in a desk job, I’ve learned a thing or two about how best to manage my lymphedema. It has certainly been a game of trial and error (I seem to improve my approach with each new job) and I have yet to perfect my toolbox. So, please share your ideas! For now, below are one lymphie’s best advice for navigating a desk job:

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Starting a new chapter — and owning who I am while doing it

FullSizeRender(1)Just over a month ago I made the jump from DC to NYC (for the second time) — without a job! This is the third time I’ve moved to a new city without employment, and I’m happy to say that I started my new job last Tuesday. It’s only been four days into the job, but so far I am incredibly happy :)

On day three of my brand new job surrounded by my new colleagues I was desperately trying to impress, I did something I didn’t think I would have done (or at least not that soon): I wore my stockings with a dress. You see, I had already chosen the outfits I wanted to wear in my first week at work (gotta dress to impress!). Nowhere in these outfit plannings, though, did I include stockings (it’s hot here and I hate wearing stockings in the summer, and especially hate to wear them with dresses, and ESPECIALLY didn’t want to stick out at my new job).

That and it was only one year ago I wore exposed stockings to work for the first time; one year ago I wore stockings with something above the knee; and less than one year ago I wore a dress with stockings at work for the first (and only) time. It may be glacial progress, but at least it’s progress.

After day 1 and day 2 on the job NOT wearing stockings my legs were really unhappy with me. Day 3 I had a choice to make:

1. Wear my original outfit without the stockings and continue to see a decline in my legs

2. Wear stockings, but change my outfit to include pants so as to conceal the stockings

3. Go with the original outfit AND wear the stockings

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A bump (or pothole) in the road

Yesterday I was watching a TV show in which one of the characters has a chronic illness. While trying to empathize with another character, he said something that struck a nerve with me: I know what it’s like when it feels like your body is failing you.

I instantly felt this trigger some strong emotions that I had clearly kept buried deep, down inside.

It hit me…hard.

I got a little teary-eyed in the moment, but it wasn’t until I was cooking up the lazy single lady’s dinner of pepper and mushroom egg scramble that I let loose. I wailed. I stomped my feet. I yelled profanities. Thank god the loud hood fan was turned on and music was blasting from my iPhone otherwise I’m pretty sure my roommates would have thought I’m even crazier than I am.

In this blog I have shown you strength, I have shown you determination to overcome. I have shown you courage and insight. I have shown you acceptance. I have shown you positivity.

But goodness, y’all, I’m only human.

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What if?

What if I break a bone?

What if I cut myself while shaving?

What if my swelling gets worse and never goes back down again?

What if everyone stares at me when I wear stockings with shorts? Or a skirt?

And what if they’re thinking what a freak I am? What’s WRONG with that girl?

What if I’ll never be beautiful enough to find a mate?

What if I never find my soul mate because I was too afraid to let down my wall?

But what if I do let down my wall and my heart gets broken because the compression stockings and the night garment and the pump are just too much for him?

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Me & My Compression Stockings

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Fair warning this post is long, but hopefully helpful! The following are my two cents on compression stockings after wearing them for 10+ years. It’s my experience with them and while I think I have a few useful things to share, please do not take this as a be-all, end-all. Every person with lymphedema has different needs when it comes to the size/compression/brand/model/etc. of compression stockings (and you should always seek out the advice of a professional before ordering a pair). As always, this is just my story, but I hope that it can help you figure out your own :)

Compression stockings, compression stockings, how I love to hate thee.

I definitely have a love/hate relationship with my compression stockings. On the one hand I hate wearing them because I feel like I’m wearing medical socks on my legs and I don’t feel normal, but on the other hand they work — compression stockings for me are by far the most effective tool I have in my lymphedema tool box.

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Motivation Monday — September 29, 2014

~ On Mondays (Motivation Monday!) I write a post with a quote to motivate and inspire. Sometimes it will be something directly related to lymphedema, and sometimes it will just be because I like the quote. But it will always be something worth sharing. ~


 

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You may get off track, lose focus and end up in a place you don’t want to be. Have faith. Take a step back, evaluate your life, reconnect with the world, and the people who matter most. Find yourself again. Look out to the horizon, yours dreams may be far off, but they’re there, waiting for you to move toward them.