Libbie Gary

Libbie Gary, Lymphedema Ambassador, Lymphedema, compression, community

Instagram: the_s.o.u.l._inspiration

Primary lymphedema diagnosed at age 11

I was diagnosed with lymphedema in my left leg in 1978 at the age of 11. The only information that my parents and I received was that the condition was chronic, and I’d need to wear a customized “elastic stocking.” I complied with the not-so-flesh-toned (i.e., beige) stocking because I had no choice (and because it got me a permanent Get-Out-of-Gym-Class-Free card). Once I went to college, I ditched the stocking, preferring to be cute although uncomfortable.

Over the years, my lymphedema gradually worsened, and by the time I was in my mid-30s, both legs were affected. It was time to give compression hose another try. From then until Spring, 2015, I wore black compression hose religiously. No one knew that I was wearing them because I wore long pants year round. When I headed to the gym, I wore my hose under long leggings or yoga pants.

In Spring, 2015, I learned about Deborah Cordner Carson, an accomplished Crossfit athlete with lymphedema. While I was impressed with her athletic ability, what really changed my life was the fact that she wore her compression hose openly. As I started following her story and that of other young women with lymphedema, I made an important discovery: We no longer live in a society which expects you to hide your conditions.

I now wear shorter skirts and capris. At the gym, I wear shorts. I have an assortment of compression hose: (genuinely) flesh-toned, dressy, and sporty. The younger generation lured me out of hiding, and I’ve never felt freer to be myself.