My Lymphedema Story
by: Jordan Schessler
As a senior in college, I can honestly say that living with Lymphedema while away at school is not all that different from when I'm at home. I am Jordan Schessler, and I was diagnosed with primary LE in my left foot and leg when I was just nine years old. By the age of ten, I had it on my right side, too. Let's hear it for symmetry! I had amazing results from my treatment at Lymphedema Therapy in Woodbury, New York and my LE remains stable due to daily care and compliance. I always had my parents' support at home, especially when it came to my LE care. So, it was expected that, when it came time for me to leave for college, I would question "How was I going to take care of my Lymphedema on my own?" I also pondered, "How am I going to explain LE to all of the new people that I meet?" Because I'd had LE since I was in elementary school in a small town, before long most people knew what LE was and it was known that I had it. However, I would be going away to Muhlenberg College and I would need to adjust to my new environment. Believe it or not, everything I had nervously anticipated worked out easily and more naturally than I ever thought possible!
When it comes to explaining what LE is, I practically consider myself a professional.
Whenever I would catch a new friend staring, I would nicely ask, "Hey, do you want me to tell you why I wear these garments?" Normally, my straight forwardness catches the person a little off guard, but almost always, they reply yes. I give a brief explanation at first: "When I was nine years old, I realized that my left foot was swelling... I went to a lot of doctors and none knew what was really wrong with me... my mom did a lot of research online and came across Lymphedema Therapy... I had a Lymphoscintigram to confirm... went for a kind of physical therapy... and boom, I live with garments and LE... until they find a cure!" If I'm asked more questions, then I start to fill in the details. Thankfully, at college I received the same reactions I had from most of the people I had met previously in my life, acceptance. I never ask that people feel sorry for me because this is the card that I was dealt and I know that I can and do handle it. Luckily, most people understand that, and recognize that LE is a part of who I am.
The next hurdle to get over was washing my garments (and toe gloves and tributes, my nighttime compression) on my own! Fortunately, I have enough pairs to get me through a couple of weeks before I have to wash them. And, over the years, my mom and I have found that the gentle cycle on the washing machine is even better than hand washing! My new friends turned this into a bonding experience, matching the hang dried garments (by dates) on my dorm room floor and then turning them right side out. I very rarely had to match garments on my own because I always had a helping hand, or two!
As a sophomore, I was initiated into the Xi Iota chapter of the Delta Zeta Sorority. (Happily, I am now the President!) While I was going through the new member process that fall, our new member class had to choose a charity to dedicate our philanthropy project to. During a meeting at which I wasn't present, they decided to donate to the National Lymphedema Network. Here was a group of girls that I'd known for only a few weeks and they were making such a heartwarming, meaningful decision. The next time we were all together, they said, "Jordan, we have something to tell you." Of course I immediately became nervous, but when they told me their decision and asked if I was okay with it, I was so overcome with emotion, I started to cry. After my next visit home, I brought all of them back "WE ARE HERE" LE bracelets and they wore them all semester. I was so proud of their decision and even more proud that Delta Zeta could contribute to the National Lymphedema Network.
These are just a few of my positive experiences being a young woman living with LE in college. Like a typical college student, I go to classes, have meals with friends in the dining hall, work out at the gym, and go to lots of parties! Lymphedema has never diminished my life. In fact, it has had the opposite effect by allowing me to spread positivity and optimism through other peoples' lives. As I concluded my college admissions essay, I have Lymphedema...Lymphedema does not have me!