Justine is a fifty-two-year-old patient from Queensland, who says the purpose of sharing her story is to raise awareness and possibly help someone else.
Justine says she struggled with her weight for most of her adult life, and eventually became unable to deal with the painful swelling in her legs. “The heaviness and aching was unbearable, including while trying to sleep” she says.
From mid-2020, Justine’s GP began sending her to different specialists, which didn’t result in any answers, so Justine booked herself in for a Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) massage, hoping it might help with her pain. It was there that the therapist advised her that she may have Lipoedema, she had never heard of it before.
In November 2020 Justine had her first consultation with Dr Lekich, which resulted in her being diagnosed with Stage 3 Lipoedema and Secondary lymphedema (due to scarring of the lymphatics from the inflammatory nature of Lipoedema tissue).
Justine says she felt a huge sense of relief to receive the diagnosis, because she was finally provided with answers. After doing some more research, she now believes her Lipoedema began during her first pregnancy at age twenty-four, when she experienced very puffy and swollen legs that she never had prior to this. She believes menopause escalated her Lipoedema to being extremely painful.
Following her diagnosis Justine controlled her symptoms of Lipoedema by following an anti-inflammatory diet, regular MLD massage and wearing flat-knit compression garments daily. She was faced with the option to continue this conservative management for the rest of her life, or undergo Lipoedema-Extraction surgery to remove the diseased fat.
Following a strict conservative management protocol to prepare, Justine underwent her first Lipoedema-Extraction surgery in March 2021. Using a lymph-sparing technique, developed in Germany by Dr Heck, the surgery resulted in Dr Lekich removing 2.8 litres from Justine’s lower legs. Following that, in late April, 7.3 litres was removed from Justine’s upper legs in her second surgery.
Justine is eager to spread awareness of the condition. By sharing her story, she hopes other women who suffer from the condition can begin to receive help, and that they, along with more medical professionals, will advocate for the disease to be recognised by Medicare and receive much needed funding. She says her family, friends, MLD Therapist and Dr Lekich and his team were her greatest sources of support during this physically and mentally challenging time.
Justine says she now feels as though she has her life back, with a happiness she hadn’t felt for many years. “I can finally do the things I love, without the constant pain and swelling stopping me” she says. Following her diagnosis, Justine wore flat knit compression full time for one year as part of her conservative management, she says it made her feel trapped, like her body belonged to Lipoedema. Now however, it does not have to determine her life. “It’s so wonderful to feel so happy, and I’m looking forward to enjoying this Summer. My happy place has always been by thee ocean and now I’m back!” Justine says.