La gamba strana
Young, curled hair, green clear eyes: Anna is delicate, charming and she radiates a fresh aura of positivity. Everyone who sees her likes Anna on the spot.
When looking at her beautiful figure, the eyes immediately fall on the colored stockings that cover her legs. There is something special about this: Anna puts on a different color on every leg. This is Anna's personal statement, because this is the way how she communicates that she suffers from lymphedema. This pathology surprised her badly after her successful skin cancer surgery 10 years ago. The cancer is now cured but Anna has been suffering from this little-known dysfunction of the lymph ever since. The removal of the lymph nodes at the time to prevent the formation of metastases has permanently disturbed the flow of the lymph, so that one leg is constantly swollen. Nevertheless, Anna shows it with style, confidence and often with a funny, witty touch. Instead of hiding it, she emphasizes "la gamba strana", which is how she calls her different leg, wearing bold colors and stylish clothes. Anna tries to tell the world that having two different-looking legs is nothing to be ashamed of. She wants to draw public attention to the yet unknown phenomenon of lymphedema. She raises awareness about this rare disease, which is how lymphedema is considered by the specialists. And she intends to encourage other sufferers to accept their changed body despite the lymphedema.
Anna openly tells her sensitive story about cancer, lymphedema, her doubts, sadness and depressions. But she also shares her successes in the fight against lymphedema, she tells of wonderful friendships she experiences in the process of understanding this disease, of important actions and events in which she takes part. She is motivated and committed to speak openly about an almost unknown illness, to give it a personal face. And she informs about it also through her IG channel and in her own book.
We could talk to Anna about her experience with lymphedema.
Dear Anna, what makes it so difficult to live with this pathology? How do you feel when you go out and other people look at you and your legs?
I have been hiding my lymphedema leg for 8 years. I was ashamed and hurt when other people saw the compression stockings or my swollen leg under the clothes.
How has your life changed since you suffer from lymphedema? What do you recommend other patients?
Unfortunately, I was not lucky enough to find a correct treatment path from the beginning. For many years I have received incomplete treatments or wrong advice that has greatly increased the severity of my condition.
For this reason, the message I want to convey is to always turn to specialized doctors who can prescribe the necessary treatment. This is not a pathology to be overlooked. Each body is different and therefore each person must receive an assessment and a prescription for a personalized path.
How do you see your role in the process of education about lymphedema?
It is necessary to raise awareness about this condition, so that everyone can recognize its severity and help patients in their daily lives.
Lymphedema is a pathology that can be never forgotten: We need expensive compressions, lymphatic drainage, various types of treatment and bandages like mummies all the time.
I started to consider my leg a part of the body which has to be accepted and taken care of, and not as an enemy. This is the secret to start accepting this condition.
You have been invited to official events of the Ministry of Health and medical congresses as a guest speaker and patient advocate. How is lymphedema viewed in scientific, specialized circles? Do doctors or official agencies offer any help to the patients?
I have met some very good doctors - I call them super heroes - and I am confident that research can go so far as to find a definitive solution for everyone.
Currently, I still have difficulties in obtaining an adequate recognition of the invalidity of this pathology, even if science defines it as chronic, invalidating and evolutionary.
How can you still look so pretty, fresh and elegant despite this unusual pathology?
I have always had a great passion for fashion but lymphedema has forced me to change my vision.
Now I need comfort but I don't want to give up my femininity. Wearing colored medical supports combined with nice clothes and shoes helps me not to feel and look "sick".
Can you find suitable shoes for your swollen foot?
Everyone with this condition is struggling to find fitting shoes which are both nice and comfortable. I am happy to wear Pregnidos, which are beautiful, comfortable and above all - adjustable. Finally we have a choice of non-sportive fashionable shoes!
Dear Anna, it is great to see how you have accepted your unusual condition, finding an original way to show your "gamba strana" to the world. Your Instagram blog and your book are also important means to convey your encouraging message to other sufferers of lymphedema.
Thank you very much for your honest, open words. We know that you will #nevergiveup trust and hope!