Meet Tiana, a 36-year-old executive-manager from Brisbane. Tiana first heard the term Lipoedema from social media in November 2022. She watched a reel about Lipoedema and recognised most of the symptoms in herself. After doing more of her own research online, she came across Dr Lekich and the Walk with Freedom community. She grappled with the idea of a consultation and diagnosis for a while, thinking that “there was nothing I can do about it”. She also had hesitations about the Group Zoom Call. After receiving some leave from work in January 2023, Tiana decided now was a good a time as ever and began her consultation and diagnosis process. In the same month, Tiana was diagnosed with stage 2 Lipoedema and secondary Lymphoedema by Dr Nicholas Teo of Lipoedema Surgical Solution.
Tiana says her diagnosis left her feeling shocked. “I sort of knew that I had it, but the diagnosis made it very real” Tiana says. She described feeling so shocked that she couldn’t even think of a question to ask Dr Teo for the rest of the consultation. After some time to process, she suddenly began to feel overwhelmed about the conservative management process and began to document her feelings on Instagram, to receive support from the online Lipoedema community.
Following the diagnosis, Tiana said her symptoms that she had been experiencing for most of her life began to piece together. “I just thought that’s the way bodies were, I was always trying to rationalize it to myself” Tiana says. In high school, she experienced ‘growing pains’ however, these growing pains continued into adulthood and eventually developed into an ache. As a young active adult, Tiana says the pain didn’t make sense and she put it down to too much or too little exercise for each day. Tiana became a professional cabaret dancer in her twenties, and wondered why her legs didn’t look like the other girls, although she says she learned to hide this with stockings and certain poses, “it definitely took a toll on my mental health” Tiana says. “I didn’t fit the mould”. After the birth of her twin girls in her early thirties, she says the cellulite appearance worsened, and is not something she felt comfortable showing the world anymore.
Although Tiana felt she wasn’t letting herself miss out on life because of her Lipoedema, she was concerned the disease would progress, especially during menopause in the future. “I don’t know what my quality of life would be like if I progressed to stage 3 or further” Tiana says. Ultimately, this drove Tiana’s decision to proceed with a surgical pathway for treatment.
In the lead up to surgery, Tiana utilised a low-carbohydrate diet and intermittent fasting, although she admits she has a sweet tooth. Tiana also had regular Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) appointments, which she says are her favourite aspect of the conservative management. Tiana also utilised compression garments, although she describes this as a ‘tumultuous journey’ and looks forward to being able to wean off compression garments eventually post-surgery, she says that compression has ultimately helped her on her journey.
In August 2023, Tiana underwent her first of a possible three Lipoedema-Extraction surgeries with Dr Teo. Utilising a protocol to manage underlying venous disease and a Lymph-Sparing technique, the Lipoedema-Extraction surgery resulted in 3 litres of diseased fat being removed from her lower legs. Following her surgery, Tiana felt relieved that the first chapter of her surgical journey was over and looks forward to a healthy recovery.
During her post-surgery recovery, Tiana described feeling surprised that the pain she experienced felt more like an ache in her muscles, she also says it wasn’t the pain so much that bothered her as the immobility she experienced temporarily post-surgery. To aid her recovery, Tiana wore her compression garments 24 hours a day for the first 2 weeks post-surgery, utilised the prescribed pain relief medication to get a good night’s sleep and had twice weekly MLD sessions. At around 6 weeks post-surgery, Tiana says she noticed an increase in energy, mobility and general disposition.
In October 2023, Tiana subsequently underwent her second Lipoedema-extraction surgery with Dr Teo, resulting in 4.6 litres of diseased fat being removed from her upper legs.
Tiana shares her story to help raise awareness of Lipoedema, particularly for women who are stage 1 and/or 2 “Women who are living in bodies with stage 4, are living in bodies that could have been avoided with the right advice. I want that to change – and that will only change if women who are stage 1 or 2 come forward. I want to see all Lipoedema ladies enjoying the life they deserve to live.” Tiana says. She hopes the more awareness is raised about Lipoedema, the less women will be walking around uncomfortable and in pain, without knowing that there’s something they can do about it.
Read more about Tiana’s journey on her Instagram page