Healing my Lymphedema: part 2

Healing my lymphedema2See part one for the backstory on my leg lymphedema. "Did you just do that today?"

A woman passed me last week as I was getting ready to exit the University of Michigan hospital where I am currently in the middle of three weeks of lymphedema therapy. She was staring at my leg, which was wrapped in layers of foam and bandages, toes sticking out of an ugly black boot.

"Uh, no," was all I could manage to utter. I didn't want to go into the details of being born with a swollen right foot. When I posted a picture of my wrapped leg to facebook, friends came up with some wicked stories for me:

  • "While I was holding a run-a-way car back with my foot to keep it from running over an infant, it shattered in several places." (Jill, the heroine angle)
  • "Tackled David (my husband) like an ezer-ninja!" (Jocelyn, the theology, "ezer"/strong power angle, see Genesis 2:18)
  • "You were leaping over a tall building in a single bound but didn't stick the landing." (Kelly)
  • "It's a limb transplant. All they had available was Andre the Giant's calf." (Tim)

Humor heals, and for this I am grateful. All my life we have fought for insurance to cover therapy for my leg. My mom did so even when no good therapy was available. My parents even gave up their dream of going to the mission field so they might stay in a cooler climate for the sake of my leg. Some of the treatments were actually harmful, and my current therapist shakes her head when I tell her the stories. We did the best we could, and I'm so grateful for the abundant life I've led.

Last August, the impossible seemed to have happened. I found the laser treatment I've waited 15 years to receive was available at U of M hospital. The therapy was scheduled, and I was two days from leaving, when the inevitable happened. The insurance denied the therapy. The reason was a technicality, as it always is. It made no sense. Lymphedema patients are rarely given the resources to help their condition without significant hassle, especially if they are born with the condition. Breast cancer arm patients have better success, though it is still challenging. My occupational therapist actually sees less patients than a normal physical therapist would because of the extra work and paperwork required to convince people lymphedema treatment is needed.

So then a small miracle happened. Even though the insurance said they would not cover my treatment because it is "primary" lymphedema, and I was "born with it," rather than being caused by an accident or surgery, things soon took a dramatic turnaround. A group of doctors at U of M spontaneously met in a coding committee, and after 42 years, changed my diagnosis. I was no longer a primary lymphedema patient, but a secondary/other lymphedema patient, and so the treatment was 100% covered. Unbelievable.

I was reeling. It is true that none of my family members have lymphedema, so it doesn't appear to be congenital. And even if it was, it is also true that every diagnostic test showed no problem with my lymph system or any other system in my body. The nearest any of us has been able to tell, something may have happened to me in utero that crimped off my circulation; even then, we don't know why it didn't resolve itself.

I am a girl with a new diagnosis. And after all these years, something amazing is happening. The little pockets of swelling in my ankle are giving way. All of those times I was told "there's nothing you can do, just live with it" are ringing in my ears now. Because something is actually being done. It is slow, intense work since I've had my condition for awhile, but we are trying everything we know to break things up and detoxify my body, and I feel and see it working.

Spiritually, though, even greater healing is happening, as I realize a few things about provision and how God's timing so often differs from my own. Had I come last August, the "physiotouch," which is a machine I didn't even know existed, would not have been available yet. It is the physiotouch more than the laser that makes immediate improvements to my leg. What I also didn't realize at the time is that my housing would not have included air conditioning, and August would have been a trying time to work on reducing leg swelling with the heat and humidity. There are many other things that are lining up for me here like a beautiful set of dominoes: healing follows healing, provision follows provision, kindness follows kindness.

I am learning to trust that God is making a way for me even when I go for decades without knowing how that way will be made. Thank you for joining in this grand adventure. I'll be back to conclude next week with final thoughts and a list of the therapies we're using that in our healing mix.

Your turn: Have you hoped for healing in some way that took years or decades? How did you change as a result?

On the book #ReclaimingEve: “I recommend this resource for every daughter of Eve!”
— Nancy Beach, leadership coach, speaker; author, Gifted to Lead: The Art of Leading as a Woman in the Church
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