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?
And then what if I do find a husband and get pregnant and my legs balloon up to an unmanageable state?
But what if I decide not to get pregnant out of fear and then lose out on the opportunity to bear my own child?
Or if I do have children and this is genetic, what if I pass it on to them? What will I tell my kids?
What if in the fight for awareness everyone I know (and those I never even met) knows I have lymphedema?
And what if in the fight for awareness I lose my identity and be branded as the “girl with that thing I can never remember the name of”? “That girl with lympha-something”?
What if they haven’t found a cure by the time I’m too old to put on my compression stockings on my own?
And what if they never find a cure in my lifetime and I really am stuck with this for the rest of my life?
What if I die before I get a chance to do everything I wanted to do?
But what if I die before I get a chance to do everything I wanted to do because I let my fears around my lymphedema hold me back?
What if I spend my life focusing on the what ifs? What happens then? What kind of life have I lived?
What if? What then…
What if my swelling does gets worse? Then I will use every tool in my toolbox to bring it back down.
What if I find the man of my dreams who loves me for me and accepts all that I am — lymphedema and all? Then I have found a man worthy of my love.
What if I successfully have children with no harm to me or them? And what if I do pass lymphedema along? Then I will teach my children to be proud of who they are and never let it hold them back.
What if in the fight for awareness I make lymphedema a proud part of my identity? Then I have learned to love all of me.
WHAT IF they never find a cure in my lifetime? Then I will die knowing that I made a difference in the lymphedema community and helped, in my own ways, advance the knowledge and treatment of lymphedema for generations to come.
I started writing this post down on “paper” several months ago, but I started writing these what ifs on my brain and on my heart many years ago. When I was diagnosed at age 13 with a condition that has no cure and so many unknowns, my worrying and projecting went on a rampage — a take-no-prisoners kind of rampage.
I got really good at playing the “what if” game. Like, really good. Like if worrying and projecting were a sport, I’d win an Olympic Gold Medal.
These what ifs have brought me to dark places, to places I never want to visit again. I was sad, I was angry, I was bitter. I was in the anger phase. No, I was not suicidal, but I was in a very low, very unhappy place in my life and my self-esteem. I spent a lot time really believing that the what ifs could come true. I let my what ifs and my fear of the unknown control me.
This post is not meant to be a pity party of 1. This is not a cry for help. I wrote this for everyone out there that has ever played the dangerous “what if” game, whether it be directly related to lymphedema or some other aspect of your life. I’ve written about some of my deepest, darkest fears that I’ve never shared with anyone else — I’ve shared them to let you know you’re not alone.
We have all played the “what if” game at least once or twice (or if you’re like me many, many more times than you can count), but what’s important is that you dig yourself out of the “what if” hole and see the light.
Don’t belittle your feelings. Embrace them. Accept them. And learn to move in a positive direction.
I know that is a million, bajillion times easier said than done.
I’m finally in a place in my life where I’ve come out on the other side. I’ve come to see the light, but I had to see the darkness first. I’ve come to ask myself, what if? Then what… And I’ve learned that it’s not as dark of a picture as I thought.