‘I hid away for years as people stared at my big legs – now I’m embracing them’

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A woman spent years hiding from people because she was self conscious about the size of her legs.

Monique Samuels from Atlanta, USA, had these insecurities ever since she was diagnosed with lymphedema at 12-years-old.

The condition, also known as lymphatic obstruction, causes excess fluid to collect in bodily tissues and causes swelling in the legs.

It also gives the 35-year-old Master’s student joint pain and skin infections that have left her hospitalised.

In attempt to combat these problems, Monique has gone under the knife 10 times.

She also undertakes manual lymph drainage therapy regularly but sadly there’s no cure to her condition.

Monique said: “When I was 12, I sprained my ankle, and shortly after, my right foot and leg started to swell up.

“After going to several hospitals, I was referred to Lerner Lymphedema Center by an ER resident and that is where I was diagnosed – after about six months of hospital stays, MRI scans, blood tests and ultrasounds.

“I was very self-conscious about my appearance once the condition developed, no one was ever unkind to my face but I would hear things from others or just stares from people in public.

“I used to stray away from going out or doing certain things to avoid stares or feeling like I was dependent on others for help, when my legs were at their biggest.

“A lot of the time, I had to roll my legs in wraps and it just took away from any fun I wanted to have.”

Monique used to hide away because of her condition.

She said: “I let the condition control my life and my decisions. I used to base all my life choices on how it would affect my legs or limit myself because of it."

But after years of battling with it, she decided she wasn’t going to let it hold her back anymore.

She said: “I was just tired of being sick and tired. It took time but I was happy to push through that thought process by doing life coaching.

“I used to always get comments from people saying that I was pretty but my legs were so big, and it used to bother me when I was younger but now I know I'm beautiful because of my legs.

“There is so much more to me than my condition, I’m proud of who I am and who I am becoming.”

Monique even started posting about her experiences with lymphedema on her @chronicallymoni Instagram page.

Many of her supporters are grateful for her speaking so openly about her condition.

She said: “There are so many supportive people out there.

“It always warms my heart to read my comments, there are millions of people like me out there and even if their condition is not the same, they too can relate to hiding who you are and everyday struggles."

What is lymphedema?

According to the NHS: "Lymphedema is a long-term (chronic) condition that causes swelling in the body's tissues. It can affect any part of the body, but usually develops in the arms or legs.

"It develops when the lymphatic system does not work properly. The lymphatic system is a network of channels and glands throughout the body that helps fight infection and remove excess fluid.

"It's important that lymphedema is identified and treated as soon as possible. If it is not treated, it can get worse."

Symptoms include aching, difficulties with movement, repeated skin infections, skin that’s tight or hard, folds developing in skin, wart-like growths developing on skin and fluid leaking through the skin.

If you are concerned you may have lymphedema see your GP for advice.

Monique added: “I used to think the only people with lymphedema were old white women, because that is all I saw on manuals, brochures and videos.

“Then, when social media grew and hashtags became a thing; I saw so many people living with it that it made me feel a part of a larger community of men and women, young and old, of all races and backgrounds.

“You have the power to live the life you want, we are all a choice away from something different, so if you want something else, choose that! Be brave.”

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