As promised I continue the back story of my growing up with Lymphedema. We start in the early 1990’s. Middle school brought a next level of complications for me. Granted most of them were shared issued that my fellow class mates endured as well, but for me some of them had an extra burden. 6th Grade was a an adjustment for us all; Stubborn lockers and all the trimmings you would expect for a new middle school student.
The most uncomfortable experience for me was Physical Education. Changing in the locker room was always a source of side looks, uncomfortable questions, and having to wear sweat pants instead of shorts in the summer to protect my very expensive compression stockings. Imagine a hot gymnasium, sweat pants over compression stockings, and the irritation of the increased swelling from the physical activity. Now don’t take me wrong, I loved playing certain sports in Phys. Ed. My favorite was a cross between soccer and basketball we call Lithuanian Ball.
Now I should explain that when the time came for us to do track and field sports, we would have to walk up to the high school after changing out in the locker room at the middle school. This walk was well the better part of a quarter of a mile arguably. I would go verify it, but several of those buildings and facilities are now long gone. At least it sure felt like a quarter of a mile anyways. I hated this time of year. I would be fatigued before even starting class. Then at the conclusion we would have to hightail it back to change clothes again. Come 7th grade I would have to do this routine, and then run to the far end of the building, down two sections of stairs to get my lunch from my regular locker and drop my books. I would then have to hike back up the same way I came to reach the cafeteria.
This routine continued until one every hot day I passed out in the cafeteria. After undergoing several tests without explanation, we marked it up to the fatigue. Come 8th grade I had thrown my hand up and gave up on Physical Education. I could not handle all the run about just to get to class. To me it was unreasonable, uncomfortable, and ridiculous to undergo all that chaos with my condition. Thanks to my 6th grade Physical Education teacher having been promoted to Assistant Principal, I spent my remaining middle school days as an office assistant in the school office, making copies, cutting forms, delivering stationary items to teachers and such.
Few few things to mention was that during this time, I was noticing that the swelling had began to slowly worsen in my legs. But I trudged onward.
Medical science still did not have a lot to go on with Lymphedema, other than yep this is what it is and here wear this.
In the previous blogs I frequently mentioned my Father’s health. during my 7th grade year Dad was the recipient of a Heart Transplant. I spent many afterschool hours traveling 30 miles away to Baltimore with my Mother to see my Dad. I did most of my homework in a hospital room visiting him. Because of complications Dad was in the hospital longer than a transplant recipent would have been. Considering all this on top of the stresses of school it was no wonder I was having rough times.
High School, the mid 90’s. Having a “supposed” written pardon from physical education renewed every school year, I never gave physical education another thought during my time in high school. I scheduled my classes every year and would take an elective of some fashion during that time.
9th grade was the first time I ever suffered the pure hell of developing an infection in one of my legs. The infection spread so fast I was having chills, conclusions, other not so pleasant effects. A few days stay in the hospital, IV antibiotics, and I took my 9th grade finals from a wheel chair, as I was to stay off of them until everything cleared up. Dad though having injured his arm was doing really good. We had some great times after he recovered.
High School actually was pretty good until 11th grade. I had begun my first job, had my first car. My job was with an Auto Parts dealer behind the school doing warehouse work (Big Place). This job afforded me the ability to park my car at work and walk across the football field to school. (Yes, even with my disability I could not park my car on school grounds) only sports participants, band, clubs, and work-study folks had the right to parking permits. Parking was limited I know but, Let’s just say that my school system did not quite comprehend the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 yet.
At the conclusion of 11th grade I began the process of planning senior year. I was quite excited, and then it happened. The school administration informed me that I would have to squeeze in a whole credit of physical education into my senior year. I fought this as much as I could, but the reality was I was not going to graduate with my class without it. So I planned in weight training and set forward.
The added fatigue, home stresses, and some poor choices led to me losing my job, my girlfriend, and realizing that I could not keep up at the pace I was going resulted in my loss of interest in going to school. I figured, whats the point I’m not going to graduate anyways. My Phys. Ed. Instructor sure didn’t understand my situation, and the school administration looked upon me as a slacker who would not conform, so in my darkness of the depression that set in I began hanging out late, getting into trouble, and associating with the wrong crowd.
Having realized I was mixed up in the wrong scene, I changed my direction after meeting the girl I would later marry.
Still through all of this, not properly caring for the health of my legs, they only continued to degrade with the lymphedema.
Four Months after “I Would” have graduated high school; (October 1996) My Father passed away from cancer, which was escalated by the immunosuppressant medications he had been taking for his transplant.
This set the next years in a rocky direction within my family, but that will come in the next blog as I move the story forward into young adulthood.
Thanks for reading.