December 9, 2023

A few years ago, I learned that I had developed end-stage lymphedema. I balked as I was unaware of this condition and refused to accept the words “end stage” anything.

I knew I became type 2 diabetic when I was 58 years old. That was a shocker too since, to my knowledge, no one had it in my family. I never smoked or consumed alcohol, apart from a toast at a wedding, or a half glass of wine at Christmas dinner.

I always watched the sodium content in foods and I ate low-fat and healthy foods for most of my adult life. I thought: How could this turn of events be happening to me?

Woman dressed in a denim jumpsuit
Woman dressed in a denim jumpsuit walking on the beach at sunset – stock photo
Perales Carrasco/Getty Images

None of the doctors had answers for me. They simply said: “It’s not the diabetes, this runs in families.” But didn’t make sense to me because I don’t recall seeing anyone in my family with legs swollen the size of an old oak tree trunk.

So I scratched my head wondering why this honor was being bestowed upon me. I developed sepsis twice in the space of a few years as my legs began to spring leaks like a worn-out and weathered garden hose.

I was prepared to die. I accepted my fate. However, my brave and ever-patient daughter wasn’t having it. She called the ambulance every single time I sprouted a leak, and off I went to the emergency room.

I thought they were getting tired of seeing me there, but I was treated very well and with great empathy by the nurses who were calming me and ensuring my every comfort. The doctors—well, they were another story.

I was uglier now than the mountain troll in the Harry Potter movies. I was becoming something akin to Jabba the Hut from Star Wars.

I was in my late sixties then. Somehow, mercy was shown to me, but I was sent home the last event when I’d been leaking to meet my death there, as my insurance deemed me too far gone to justify treatment. I returned home to die.

In a day or so my, daughter searched the internet for any help she could find for me. She discovered others with this lamentable malady.

She bought me an inflatable wedge to elevate my legs properly, which seemed to help a little. She also found foods that may have assisted my swelling issues and incorporated them into my diet—dark leafy greens seemed to help.

In a few days, while urinating more, my swelling seemed to go down. The wounds on my legs healed and closed, never to reopen again. I’m 70 years old now. I still have diabetes and it’s a struggle to keep my glucose levels regulated, but I do not leak anymore and I can walk a bit wobbly, but with a cane I can manage.

In 2022, I had COVID twice and lived to tell the tale. I didn’t leave my house but I caught it anyway. I suppose there is some reason the Grim Reaper hasn’t succeeded in collecting me yet.

All that I know is I love my life. I love that I can still see my daughter and her cat. I love seeing my baby brother and talking with my friends. No, I’m not the person I used to be when I was younger and healthy.

There’s no cure for lymphedema, and no cure for diabetes, and I’ve made peace with that. I’ve come to realize that my being here matters to the people I love whether I look pathetic or not. They just like seeing me here.

So for whatever time I have left on this planet I’m participating fully in every way that I am able. That’s my miracle. I cry sometimes but I snap out of it. I’m grateful for each sunrise that I can still see.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Gail Francimore has retired from working in the staffing industry for over thirty years.

All views expressed in this article are the author’s own.

Do you have a unique experience or personal story to share? Email the My Turn team at