Gisele DeVarennes Aubé’s story is a testament to the strength and will of the human spirit. The following blog post was written by her and shared as a member of The Lymphedema Running Club for which I am an admin of on Facebook. She gave me permission to post it on this blog.
I hope you are as equally inspired as I am, if not more.
I have Klippel Trenauray Syndrome and Primary Lymphedema in my right leg. For a long time, I hid in the shadow of my condition, letting my Lymphedema be the heart of who I was. So strongly was I focused on my medical condition, that it shaped my thoughts and my views of the world. And because of this I began crawling in feelings of anger and resentment, which in turn melted into depression, pushing me into isolation. Then back to anger and resentment again, until that circle of emotions led me to make a choice: break free or completely loose myself.
I may have been born with a medical condition, but I was also born a fighter. And the fight to see the world with new eyes, a world not constantly filtered through my Lymphedema, needed to start inside of me. New thoughts and new views would lead me away from a destructive circle. I had the opportunity to have 10 months of intense interpersonal coaching which helped me deal with the anger. Through this coaching, I learned to ask different questions and to explore different views. I realized the isolation which triggered the anger, was mine and I could choose to feed it or not. I learned to reach out and see what was out there. What a beautiful discovery! Lymphedema might be a part of me, but it’s not all of me. Life was waiting for me to jump in with both feet. Through this coaching, I also worked on my self-esteem and my self-image. Another beautiful discovery waited for me: I have value, and strength, and dreams. I started dreaming beyond self-imposed limits and narrow views.
Today, I do strength training, swimming, and biking (both mountain and road). I also jog/run, walk, row and have done numerous races ranging from 3K to 10K. If I can dream it, I can do it.
I have had help along the way, and I still reach out. I still have Lymphedema, but today, that means that I need a fitness trainer that understands that condition. Reaching out means that I have had good people support me. For example, my coach, Cam MacKinnon of Fast Forward Athletics, helps me get fitter and stronger, but he has also taught me to dream and walk outside my comfort zone. I am realizing all that can be accomplished with hard work and perseverance. I’m doing things that I never thought I could do. He challenges my fitness limits all the time. He never lets me use my condition as an excuse, it is simply there as part of me. Awareness and information are needed to help guide the exercise program, but in the end, I never get a free pass on something because of it.
Last fall, I went through Complex Physical Decongestive Therapy (CDT) and Cam continued training me throughout the whole process. He was extremely supportive. I truly believe that continuing my physical fitness program has played a huge part in the success I’ve had with the treatment. Physical activity alone will help some, as will the CDT treatment will help some, but when combined together, it was like magic for me.
Fitness training, swimming and biking are all very well, but I felt the need to do one thing more: physical activities with a group. I recently joined a group of cyclists to do the Fitworks Sponsored Mellow Monday Bike ride. I may not be the fastest, but I showed up and there was always someone to cycle with me. The group was very welcoming and very helpful. Getting out of my comfort zone and doing these things makes me feel stronger within.
I have discovered that there is no need to isolate one-self. One needs to look at his dreams with new eyes, not tainted by limits. One needs to be determined to want to find solutions to make it happen. One needs to step out of the shadow of a medical condition and be ready to work hard. One needs to reach out because there are people out there that will help you if you ask. Deborah Cordner-Carson has been my inspiration for the last year. She has a similar condition to mine and is doing amazing things in fitness. When I want to give up, I think of her and keep working hard.
Not all activities out there are for me, but there are plenty that are within my reach. I’m getting ready for my first Duathlon in June 2013, which is a sporting event which combines (Running – Cycling – Running) and although I have many reasons not to do it, none are worth living with the regret of not trying. Athletics may not be my strength, but I believe that exercising is an important key to managing my condition.
When I got diagnosed with Lymphedema it felt like a lifelong sentence and I had a lot of anger and a lot of resentment. Today, I’m learning that it can be managed and that there are no limits, just endless possibilities out there to be discovered.
Since this was written, I have completed 2 duathlon, I tri a triathlon, numerous 3K, 5K and 10 K races and I completed a 15K and a ½ marathon.
–Gisele DeVarennes Aubé