Six months ago I had never heard of lipoedema. As far as I was concerned, I was an overweight woman, with fat legs, who in spite of 43 years of trying to lose weight, had never managed to do so. In addition to being fat, therefore, I carried the burden of my self-perception as being weak-willed and incapable of exercising control over my body, an attitude that spilled over and profoundly influenced almost every area of the rest of my life.
I had come to see Dr Wolf to discuss the options that were available to reduce the size of my legs as I had read of the new VASER technique, which seemed almost too good to be true: a short, minimally invasive procedure under local anaesthetic, which promised minimal downtime… When Dr Wolf was assessing me for treatment, this was the first time I heard about lipoedema. It is not an overstatement to say that day was one of the most significant days of my life. Internet searches for lipoedema yielded results that were simultaneously desperate, depressing, liberating and yet hopeful. Depressing and desperate because nine out of ten websites delivered the news that it was a chronic and incurable condition of unknown cause. Liberating because at a stroke I realized I was the victim, not the perpetrator, of my affliction (removing guilt at a stroke). And hopeful because one in ten sources mentioned VASER, or tumescent liposuction: a new technique, which was apparently ‘transforming’ the lives of some lipoedema sufferers.
It is hard to know where to begin to describe the experience of the last 4 months in which so many physical, psychological and emotional changes have taken place. I’ll begin with the experience of surgery itself: I have had 5 procedures in 4 separate operations over 4 months. The experience of VASER itself is, as promised, short, minimally invasive, minimally uncomfortable and carried out by medical teams who are quite exceptional in terms of the quality of care, technical expertise and follow up treatment they provide. Within half an hour, a double chin I had hated since my teens, was removed. Within a further two hours, the breasts I had loathed since my early 40s, and which had ballooned since the menopause, were considerably reduced (the most marked result being that I no longer walk with a stoop, a life long affliction I had assumed was a spinal deformity). The tum which had grown since the menopause was radically reduced within 2 hours, and the same for thighs and calves (in addition to lipoedema, the latter were very disfigured in an RTA I had when I was 17. Selective fat removal has rendered them almost symmetrical and looking far more like normal legs. Again, all under local anaesthetic and within the space of less than 2 hours). At this juncture it is worth remarking on how, in just one patient, this extraordinary treatment has alleviated such a wide range of life-long afflictions, resulting from such various causes as the menopause, an RTA, the condition of lipoedema and (in the case of my double chin) some unfortunate genes!
My recovery from each of these procedures has been very smooth. I liken the operations to rather long trips to the dentist (although unlike the dentist, you can chat!) and the recovery period is comparable with getting over a mild cold or having a period. I had to wear a compression garment for 4 weeks, take a course of antibiotics and have some (very enjoyable!) MLD. Post-operative pain was minimal and alleviated with an occasional Paracetamol.
Visually, I look very different. I never wanted to be a catwalk model or an athlete – that’s not what I wanted from my body – but I now look OK, and looking OK is not something I take for granted! Having spent over 4 decades feeling I was deficient and abnormal, looking OK is a HUGE thing for me, and precisely what I wanted to achieve. I used to think I didn’t fit in and my physical problems were in the foreground of people’s perception of me. Now I look in a mirror and am happy with what I see, which means I can get on with my life and my relationships with other. I’m OK!
Looking OK, means that the psycho-emotional jumble of self-deprecating thoughts and feelings have been defused. It is impossible to overstate just how significant this is. It is fair to say that even if I hadn’t had VASER, the guilt about my condition would have gone, at a stroke, with Dr Wolf’s diagnosis. But with VASER I find I am more psychologically outgoing. Unconsciously, as the condition took hold and became compounded, post-menopause, with larger breasts and tum, I had let friendships lapse: I have now picked up the threads of some treasured old friends and have many social events planned, which I would otherwise have avoided.
I don’t quite know where the energy has come from. Yes, I have lost bulk and feel more psychologically inclined to move and be active, but the resultant energy seems above and beyond these causes. Whatever the cause, this has been a fantastic result and find I DO so much more of everything – gardening, housework and so on. With the increased activity is a further enhanced sense of wellbeing.
At one point I was doing so much that my son asked if anything was the matter with me, so unaccustomed is he to having an active mum! The VASER results have given me a huge boost, which I am building on with changes in lifestyle. I am learning more about lipoedema and eating better, plus taking regular exercise. I recognize that these choices will support my overall health now and into the future. Speaking of which, in 2 days time I will arrive at the milestone of my 60 th birthday with all that that bespeaks. I shudder to think how I would have felt at this juncture in my life, had I not discovered VASER. My physical condition would have been unaltered, and I would have hovered in that horrible hinterland of guilt, desperation and false hope. I now feel as though my life has just begun. I have the energy and self-confidence to face the future with enthusiasm, excitement, curiosity and a sense of physical and mental well-being. It is true to say that I feel healthier, in every sense, than I felt at any of my other milestone birthdays.
I cannot recommend VASER highly enough and while I realize that results doubtless vary with the individual, dependent on all sorts of factors, not least patient expectations, I am happy for my results to be used to help others who are in a similar position to where I found myself 6 months ago.