Anna is a thirty-three-year-old patient from Wellington, New Zealand, who says she first learned about Lipoedema on social media, after watching a TV show with a lady who had similar legs to her, talk about Lipoedema. “Lightbulbs went off in my head” Anna says.
Despite being an extremely active teenager and participating in ballet and school sports, Anna says she began to develop ‘tree trunk’ legs by her late teens. Struggling with body image ideals, Anna avoided wearing shorts, instead opting for long dresses which would hide her legs and was constantly self-conscious of how her legs looked. “If I had known I had Lipoedema, it would have given me an answer” Anna says.
In her twenties, Anna says her legs only became heavier, and she began to find running and CrossFit more challenging. Recovering from a gym session would take days because her legs felt enlarged and sore. “My ‘saddlebags’ would often go numb when I was driving, I felt like I was sitting on rocks” Anna says. Even basic mobility became challenging for Anna as her Lipoedema (unknowingly) progressed, getting up and down off the ground was a test and she avoided running or lifting her legs at the gym. Prior to her Lipoedema diagnosis, Anna attempted ‘fat freezing’ to attempt to alleviate her painful symptoms, but now believes it only accelerated her Lipoedema growth.
Once Anna suspected she may have Lipoedema, she booked an appointment with her GP, unfortunately though, Anna’s GP wasn’t aware of Lipoedema, and was unsure how to support her. So after researching herself, Anna decided to have a zoom consultation with Dr Lekich in Australia, who confirmed Anna’s Lipoedema diagnosis. Gradually, Anna learned more about Lipoedema and began to undergo Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) Therapy locally. Anna says this played a significant part of her treatment journey. Eventually, Anna decided to opt for a surgical treatment pathway, in order to improve her now compromised mobility and daily fatigue.
Following a period of conservative management, Anna began her surgical treatment – which was slightly delayed due to travel restrictions during the pandemic. In March 2022 Anna underwent her first Lipoedema-extraction surgery on her lower legs, utilising a lymph-sparing technique that ensures the fat does not return, 6.3 litres of diseased fat was extracted by Dr Lekich. In May 2022, Anna subsequently underwent her second surgery on her upper legs, resulting in 3.2 litres being extracted by Dr Lekich. In August 2022, Anna underwent her third surgery on the back of her thighs, resulting in a further 7.1 litres being extracted by Dr Lekich. Anna’s fourth surgery was on her arms in November 2022, resulting in 1.8 litres being removed.
Anna has documented her journey extensively on her own Instagram page, including her international travel arrangements from New Zealand to Australia to undergo surgery. Although Dr Lekich routinely assesses patient’s skin at 12-18 month post-surgery, Anna says her skin has already retracted, just nine months later following her four surgeries.
Anna says she’s so thankful to have had surgery now and prevent mobility issues later on in life. “I have so much energy now, a new lease on life. My legs no longer hold me back, I’m a new woman”.