There are some health-related things I’ve written about or touched on over the past few years that it feels like time to update. Things I thought could/would never improve that to my surprise (and delight) have improved beyond anything I could have hoped for.
Back in 2016, from nowhere I developed a severe swelling in my right leg, beginning with my foot and lower leg but eventually extending to the whole of my leg. I had a series of infections (cellulitis), which thankfully were successfully treated each time. However, it took a long time and some dead-end medical routes before I was eventually correctly diagnosed with lymphoedema.
I was fortunate enough to secure an NHS referral to a centre of excellence (St George’s in London), where a specialist scan indicated that I have primary lymphoedema affecting my lower half. Fortunately only my right leg and foot are symptomatic. My shoe size has increased from size 38 to size 41.
The good news is that since July 2018 I have been treated at a local specialist (NHS) clinic. This involves regularly having my affected leg measured and then getting a made-to-measure full length pressure stocking, which I wear all day every day.
The even better news is that wearing the stocking together with being able to resume being quite active has resulted in a dramatic improvement in the condition of my leg. Not a single tissue infection since the treatment began. The swelling has reduced from 68% bigger than it should be to just 10% bigger (mainly walking every day – I aim for a minimum of 10,000 steps a day but often walk further than this, bumping up my daily average – my Fitbit is a key tool helping me to track and achieve this).
Now I’m cautiously optimistic that it could reduce even more and be back to normal (but even if that happens, I will still need to wear the pressure stocking every day, in order to maintain the improvement). And this month, for the first time since this all started, I’ve been able to resume wearing the Swedish wooden clogs I’ve always worn for gardening. I’m disproportionately delighted.
Sleeping and insomnia
Insomnia seemed to be my body’s default position for many years. I think it began when life became particularly stressful (stresses in extended family; multiple parental illnesses; work-related stress….) and increased to being pretty much intolerable with the menopause. I was relying on medication to help me achieve any level of sleep at all.
But. After years of sleep-walking through life, last March things began to gradually improve. In all honesty I don’t know why. The improvement coincided with me buying a new Fitbit that tracks my sleep as well as movement. There is no possible way this could physically affect my sleep, and yet it seems to have had a perceptible effect – I assume some kind of psychological (placebo?) effect. Whatever, I’m just glad it has improved.
I have gradually increased my sleep target to 5 and a half hours per night, to 6 hours a night and now to 7 hours a night. Most nights I hit the target. Life is so much better (and easier) as a result. The occasional bad night is easy to cope with. I still take a very small dose of medication to help me, but plan to reduce and eventually give it up altogether later this year.
Although the operation I had 3 years ago to lift my eyelids was a success, sadly the effect didn’t last as well as we all hoped, and late in 2018 my optician advised that he expected to need to refer me back for repeat surgery as I was again losing peripheral vision. Which indeed he did when I had my regular eye test last autumn.
Fortunately this time the local NHS funding panel accepted me for surgery, and I expect to have the operation some time in the next couple of months. In the meantime, because prolonged use of the particular type of contact lens (that I’ve worn since I was 18) seems to exacerbate and possibly cause the lid drooping, I’ve taken the plunge and decided to have lens replacement surgery to correct my (very) short-sightedness. The first eye has been done, and the second will be done later this week. Whilst I will still need to wear glasses for reading and close work, I’m ridiculously excited at the prospect of getting up in the morning and being able to see properly. Also, being able to go swimming and be able to see.
I’ve had to pay for the lens replacements, because the NHS only does this for cataracts, which I don’t have and now never will have. I’m thankful to be in a position to be able to afford to make this choice, and I’m astonished at how quick and painless the operation has been (so far…).
I’m looking for an overseas sight (or lymphoedema) charity to donate to, in recognition of my own privilege.