How Faye’s life was transformed by lipoedema treatment

As a seven-year-old schoolgirl Faye Rodgers-Harris was told she was overweight and sent to a dietician.

From then on Faye went from one diet to another as she battled to get the ‘normal’ body she so badly wanted.

“It was my legs really,” she explained. “No matter what I did they just seemed to get fatter.           

“I had a permanent sick note to excuse me from school sports because I was too self-conscious to wear a sports skirt. Shopping for clothes was a nightmare. Trying to get trousers to fit was near impossible and I was teased and bullied at school.

“My legs were so big they would rub together from the top of the inner thigh down to the knee causing me to be extremely uncomfortable and often sore to the point of bleeding. I had to carry talcum powder with me everywhere I went just to ease the pain for a while – I could hardly walk any distance at all.

“I become deeply depressed about my appearance especially my arms and legs and in turn I gained more and more weight until I got to almost 23 stone. At one stage my legs were 36 inches - the same size as my husband’s waist!”

But, as she neared her 40s, Faye discovered that there wasn’t anything she could have done to make her legs thinner. She was suffering from a condition called lipoedema and dieting would have no effect.

Miss Anne Dancey, a consultant plastic surgeon at Spire Parkway Hospital, explained: “Lipoedema is a condition which causes the legs, and sometimes the arms, to accumulate distinct patterns of fatty tissue.

“It can occur in women of all sizes, from the seriously underweight to the morbidly obese but, unlike normal fat, lipoedematous fat cannot be lost through diet and exercise.

“As soon as I saw Faye I knew she was suffering from lipoedema. It is a condition that often goes undiagnosed or blamed on weight-gain and I am really working to make people much more aware of it.”

Now Miss Dancey, working with Julie Cunneen, a nurse specialising in lipoedema and lymphedema, is now planning to set up as regular clinic at the Spire Parkway Hospital.

It was the fact that Faye, who lives in Solihull with husband Richard and English bulldog Nelson, had actually been very successful in losing weight that brought about her meeting with Miss Dancey in the first place.

She had been fitted with a gastric band by surgeon Mr Paul Super, who specialises in gastrointestinal surgery.

“It was a great success and I did start losing weight. It was tough but I stuck at it,” said Faye. “But as I lost nearly 10 stones in seven years I noticed that it was all from my upper body and especially my arms. My legs just seemed to stay the same size.”

In the end Faye lost so much weight that the excess skin needed to be taken care of. It was when she went to Miss Dancey to have skin tuck operations on both arms that she was told for the first time in her life that she had lipoedema.

Faye explained: “Miss Dancey told me it was an extreme case but t it could be treated with liposuction. I can’t tell you how that made me feel.

“I had given up hope of my legs ever being a normal size and now I was being told there was a treatment available. I knew it would be a painful process but I also knew I just had to go for it.”

After carrying out the skin tucks and liposuction on both arms Miss Dancey then arranged for Faye to undergo liposuction on her legs when 12 litres of fat were removed in two stages.

She said: “In cases like this it is essential that liposuction is carried out in hospital and under the highest clinical standards. It is not just the actual liposuction, it is also the aftercare that is vitally important. A hospital stay is a must in a treatment like this.”

“Normally I would start with liposuction below the knee and then progress to the thighs in a subsequent procedure. As Faye had lost a significant amount of weight, she already had loose skin on her thighs, which would need to be removed in addition to the lipoedema.

“As this was Faye’s main concern, I removed this skin at the same time as the first liposuction to her thighs. It wasn’t until her thighs had been corrected that Faye really appreciated how bad her lower legs were. She then decided to proceed with liposuction to this area. “


Now as she now enjoys shopping for the type of clothes she has never before been able to wear, Faye says it has all been worthwhile.

“It was painful – very painful. You wouldn’t believe the bruising and I do have scars where the tuck surgery was carried out but it really was worth all the pain.

As for husband Richard, he loves the new look!

“He has watched my confidence grow as my body shrank and he has been a constant support through it all - I really don't think I could have done it without him,” said Faye.

“My parents have been amazing, supporting me mentally, physically and financially even though they were terrified at the thought of me having such huge and drastic procedures.

“The always said they loved me whatever weight I was but I think they knew how important it was to me change the way I looked.

“For the first time in years I am happy and contented with the way I look and I will always be in debt to Anne Dancey and Paul Super for that. Now I want to raise awareness of lipoedema and in hope of getting support from medical professionals in order to help others get help towards funding their treatment.

“It is so sad that people are still thinking they are fat and going through failed diet after failed diet when there is a treatment available that can really help them change their body shape and get their lives back.”

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