My name is Caroline Tremaine, I am 24 years old and I live in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. I have a degree in biology, with a minor in psychology and I hope to be a nurse in the near future. I am very passionate about sport and exercise. Sports have always been a huge part of my life and I really do believe they have made me who I am today. I played basketball, tennis and volleyball in high school and I went on to play university volleyball. Currently I am working as a tennis coach, as I wait to hear about nursing school. I continue to play sports recreationally but I have found a new love for resistance training, which keeps me active and strong.

I come from a wonderful family of 6; I have 2 amazing sisters and a caring over protective brother. My parents have been married for 35 years and are two of the happiest people I know. I am very lucky to have the family that I do and I love to spend time with them. Other than that, I hang out with my friends and my boyfriend, who are very supportive and keep my life interesting!

Three and a half years ago, I went to Cuba with two of my best friends. My dad is a dermatologist so I was very religious with my sunscreen. My two friends were shocked by how much and how often I put it on. After a long day in the sun, I realized I had gotten a severe burn on my left leg. I was shocked because I had been putting sunscreen on all day. My friends thought I may have done the same leg twice. I did not think much of the burn at first, I had had a few in my life and they never turned to anything but a tan. The next day we went walking in town, near the end of the walk I felt my foot and ankle begin to swell. It was very noticeable. We returned to the resort and throughout the day, the swelling moved up my leg. I began to panic. I thought initially it was an allergic reaction to a bite or something like that. I took a Benadryl and elevated the leg for the day in the shade. It went down a bit that night but swelled right back up the next day. It continued to do this for the rest of the trip.

When I returned home I told my parents all about it, and my dad took a closer look. After about a month of swelling everyday, my dad realized that it was lymphedema. I was very fortunate to have a dermatologist for a father who had heard of the condition. I went to seek help in Halifax. I found a massage therapist who was MLD certified and she confirmed that it was lymphedema. She told me everything I was going to need. My Dad had a compression connection, since he prescribes compression stockings in his office. Then I found a physiotherapist who helped my leg tremendously. Not only with MLD, but she also recommended K tape and the night sock I now wear. This was obviously a very challenging time in my life. I was scared, worried about what would happen down the road and honestly felt pretty awful for myself. Having to put on compression everyday and night. Wearing shorts in the summer, while getting stared at by everyone. It was super difficult at the beginning.

Today I am quite used to all of the rituals that it takes to keep my leg under control, such as always wearing my compression stocking (except during exercise), wearing my night sock, re-taping every 4 days and getting MLD about once every 2 weeks.

I would say I became chronically motivated about a year ago when I realized it could be a lot worse. My leg is fully functioning and I realized that I could keep it under control, as long as I put in the time and effort to do so. I am still concerned about pregnancy down the road, and I do have to be careful to not gain weight but those are things that people are concerned about anyway, lymphedema or not. It has not changed my dreams or my passion. I am still very active, I play sports and I hit the gym regularly. I actually find exercise quite helpful for my leg, building muscle and not gaining weight. I always wanted to work in health care and I still do. Nursing is a perfect career for lymphedema because I will be up and moving. ( I also don’t have to worry about wearing nice clothes, loose scrubs are great).

If you have lymphedema and are struggling just remember that it is manageable and it could be a lot worse. Try to stay active, eat consciously and find the compression garments that work for you. You will have rough times, times you feel down and sorry for yourself. This is normal and expected, just try not to dwell for too long. Remind yourself that life goes on and if all you do is think about your lymphedema, you won’t be happy. Continue to do the things you love, no matter what. Surround yourself with people who understand and are supportive but wont talk about it all the time. People who take lymphedema off your mind and make you happy really are the key.

The three lymphedema materials I can’t live without are my Venotrain delight custom made compression socks in nude, my tribute night sock and cover in black, and nude K-Tape. K-tape is not used by all lymphies but I run it along the worst areas of my leg. It helps to keep the fluid soft and it helps the leg drain into the areas in my upper body, where there are working lymph nodes.

My main tip for all people with lymphedema is exercise. Cardio is great, like biking, even elliptical, but also resistance training. Using light weight helps to build definition in the leg and pumps your muscles, which helps to drain fluid. I have gone as high as a 60lbs squat. I would not go much higher than this, as I don’t want to damage my leg more. However, it is a good idea to check with your specialist to be sure weight training is right for you.

Life with lymphedema is difficult at times and can get me down, but I know that I will be fine and it only makes me a stronger person.

Where you can find Caroline:

Instagram: @carolinetremaine


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