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Phenix City women share lymphedema struggles to bring awareness to community

(Chinnapong | Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Published: Apr. 1, 2022 at 9:41 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 4, 2022 at 9:05 AM EDT
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PHENIX CITY, Ala. (WTVM) - According to the Mayo Clinic, nearly 10 million Americans and hundreds of millions worldwide suffer from lymphedema and lymphatic diseases.

News Leader 9 recently talked to three Phenix City women living with the pain and embarrassment of unexplainable weight gain.

Alicia Hamilton, her daughter, Merceytee Jones, and Cassandra Thompson all have a common thread, lymphedema.

Hamilton made appearances on the Oprah Show for her battle against weight and ‘The Dr.’s’ as she desperately searched for answers.

“I had a surgery done in 2013, and after the surgery, about two months afterwards, my legs started feeling like bricks were tied around them,” she explained.

Hamilton believes that surgery caused her to develop lipedema and later lymphedema. As a result, she struggles with both illnesses.

According to the Mayo Clinic, lymphedema and lipedema are two distinct medical disorders that cause swelling in the arms and legs.

Lymphedema disrupts the flow of lymph fluid, while lipedema affects fat tissue, which almost exclusively occurs in women.

Hamilton expressed, “It’s been really devastating,” adjusting lifestyles to fit their new normal.

“I’ve gained 30 points since April. You have to wear longer dresses because of the wraps you have on your leg,” Thompson explained.

Thompson also wears a boot for extra support.

These women said they want to bring awareness to this incurable disease called lymphedema.

“A lot of women go undiagnosed with this condition, and they’re always told they are obese and need to lose weight, but that’s just not always the case,” added Jones.

Jones said she believes her struggles with lymphedema started while in the military, “We’re running 5 or 6 miles every other day and I’m like why are my legs growing steel.”

After seven years of service, Jones was medically discharged last year at 28-yeas-old.

“It’s an issue when leadership come to you and say hey, you look like you’re gaining weight, it’s embarrassing,” continued Jones.

Jones and her mother use a machine two hours a day called ‘FlexTouch plus’ to treat the swelling.

Hamiton is now an advocate for other women who have lymphedema. She received a proclamation from the Mayor of Phenix City for her efforts in helping other women at her 50th birthday party last year.

“There is hope. You don’t have to suffer in silence,” stated Hamilton.

Hamilton does see a local physical therapist for treatment.

She said her mission is to help as many women as possible get a diagnosis and the proper care to manage the condition. She is also currently writing a book called ‘Dying to be Beautiful 2.0’.

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