My name is Gillian Hardie, I am 42 years old and live just outside Glasgow in Scotland. I am a hairdresser and own a hair and beauty salon. I am a single mum to a little girl that I adopted last year.
I was diagnosed with secondary Lymphoedema in July 2011, 2 years 9 months after having a radical hysterectomy for cervical cancer. As soon as I had finished all my treatment and went back to work as a hairdresser I noticed by the end of the day the left side of my pelvis was slightly swollen, I never thought anything of it really, just thought it would’ve been to do with the surgery. I now realise that I had Lymphoedema all along and that this was just the start.
I did tell my surgeon at check ups about the swelling but he did not seem concerned and only ever asked if I had swelling in my legs. I have always been very big on keeping fit and enjoy circuit classes and running in particular. One evening after having been at a circuit class I was in the shower and noticed that the top of my left thigh felt flabby and slightly bigger than usual, at first I just thought maybe I had put on some weight but when I checked my other leg it was as normal, immediately I knew that I had Lymphoedema as I had been made well aware that it was a risk of the surgery I needed. When I was waiting on my appointment with a Lymphoedema nurse to be properly diagnosed I researched the condition and was utterly horrified at what I found online, the photos were all worst case scenario and I just assumed that this was what was going to happen to me, I was beyond upset!
The day I was properly diagnosed was just awful, the nurse had big posters all over her wall of huge big limbs, when I asked her if this what was going to happen to me she just shrugged her shoulders and said she didn’t know. Why didn’t she have something positive on her walls? She took my measurements and said that she wasn’t actually allowed to treat me at this point as my leg was only 3% bigger than the other one and it had to be 5% before she could treat me! Absolutely shocking! I said to her, ‘Oh hang on then and I’ll wait till my leg gets worse and then I’ll come back and see you!’ However, she said that because I was so upset and she could see that I had Lymphoedema, she would treat me. By that I mean, she would give me a leaflet on how to manage this condition and a single stocking to wear until I could get more. She made an appointment for me to come back in two weeks to be taught how to do SLD as I was too upset that day.
The same day I was diagnosed with Lymphoedema I had heard back from my lawyer that yes 5 of my smear tests had been incorrectly interpreted over the last seven years and that the cancer was completely preventable, it should of been picked up and treated at a pre-cancerous stage. That day something in me just changed and I wanted to kill myself, I couldn’t cope, I had already been through so much and always stayed strong, but these two pieces of awful news on the same day just broke me. I was properly suicidal. I told one of my friends that I wanted to die and she sent me to a counsellor. This woman was probably what saved me, she taught me to meditate and made me realise that in actual fact I had not really allowed myself to grieve for what I had already lost (my ability to have a child) this was it all coming out now. When I realised I couldn’t kill myself as I couldn’t do that to my family, I decided I would do everything in my power to keep my leg from getting worse. I became obsessed with researching Lyphoedema and was so disappointed at the treatment that was available.
Wear a stocking for the rest of your life and get on with it! Really? I always had l questions for my nurse at check up’s and she would mostly answer, I don’t know. Anyway I done enough research myself and managed to learn a lot about Lymphoedema and what I could do to help myself. I would go back to see my physio and tell her what I had been doing and she say to me, “Oh! I’ll need to tell my other patients about that.” So you could say that I was Chronically Motivated to make sure I kept my leg in good condition and became a total geek on Lymphoedema. I have been called a high information seeker.
I am motivated to have a healthy body and live a full life. Having Lymphoedema will not hold me back! I have had to make changes in my life, such as reducing the hours I spend doing hair, I now do nails in my salon as well as hairdressing and this keeps my leg a bit happier. I am still being artistic and managing to do something that fits in with my business. Unfortunately running does not have a good effect on my leg so I don’t really go running that much these days, although I am doing the Half Mudder in June, a wee one off 5 miles that looks great fun! I have always wanted to do the Tough Mudder so I was very happy when they announced that they were doing the half. To keep fit nowadays I do yoga, HITT training and swimming, all of these are much better for your body anyway so it’s all good!
I would like to inspire others to be healthier, take better care of themselves and realise that they can do so much to help themselves. To not give up and take control.
My words of advice would be, do the research, find out as much as you can, look for people with Lymphoedema that inspire you, find out what works for you, what helps your affected limb and what makes it worse. You can live a full life and you will be happy, you will just need to make a few changes.
My top 3 cant live withouts would be! My sigvaris magic tights, as I live in Scotland and we don’t get much of a summer I can wear these tights for probably 8 months of the year, they look just like normal black tights, they don’t fall down like my summer stocking and as they lift everything up they make your bum look great lol 😉 Maxi dresses! To cover the sexy stocking! I have quite the collection now! And pillows for elevating my leg.
My best Lymphoedema tip would be yoga headstands or any yoga inversions, just try them and you’ll see. Can I give two tips?! What I put into my body had a huge impact on how my leg feels, at first I went strictly off all processed food and dairy, however life is for living and a little of what you fancy does you good.
Where you can find Gillian: