I am a black lymphie woman who considers herself blessed. It’s not every day any woman with lymphedema can openly admit to being able to fit into a pair of skinny jeans. Over the weekend, I pulled out one of my favorite pair of skinny jeans. I’m talking about skinny jeans that hug my curves just right. Skinny jeans that make my booty pop as if all I ever do is squats. Oh, and skinny jeans that I have had for over 5 years that I still can wear with confidence with lymphedema.

While I was on my local college campus a woman asked me if my ankle was okay. I looked at her with a slight smile. I already knew she was staring at my body and most importantly legs and feet mighty hard. I’m one of those folks who can just feel someone staring a fiery hole in me from any distance. She was staring many fiery holes at me. One fiery hole, in particular, could have left my sneakers with burn soles! I noticed her before she noticed me.

I told her that my ankle was okay as we walked up a spiral staircase to the same computer lab. She then told me that she was curious about my ankles because I looked nice. She was a sister like me. 

She wore black crochet curls in a bob. Her smile was just as bright as her skin. She wore an oversized navy blue sweatshirt with dark wash jeans with a pair of Jordans. Her eyes danced all over my face as I spoke. I was comfortable with telling her that I had secondary lymphedema. I educated her on how difficult it can be to manage and how long I have had it. 

She complimented me again and told me that she’s proud of me. I asked her why? And she unlocked her screen on her phone and showed me a photo of one of her arms. Her arm was covered in burns. She told me that she was a third-degree burn victim who never shows her arms. I was shocked and my eyes started to water.  I did not want to get too much into her story. She seemed a little nervous as she told me about her burns. I watched as she rubbed her fingers across her phone screen as if she felt every scar in her skin physically. 

We then stood outside the computer lab and talked some more.

She told me that she been a burn victim since she was fifteen. I told her that I have had secondary lymphedema for the same amount of time. She reached out and hugged me. I told her that even though we both have two different conditions we still are living. 

She replied and said, “No, I’m not living. I’m hiding. I cover my scars every chance I get. So, I consider myself surviving.”

I grabbed her free hand and told her, “Girl, you are beautiful beyond your burns. You have to accept and love yourself first.”

She replied, “You married or engaged from your ring on your finger. It’s probably easy for you to tell people something like what you just said to me. I don’t even date anymore because of my burns. It’s a turn off to some dudes.”

She noticed everything about me physically but not the words I was speaking to her and over her mentally.

I shook my head and reached into my backpack and gave her my business card. Then said, “I had a swollen foot and feet before I got with my now-husband. My lymphedema never stopped me from feeling or looking beautiful. You will too find someone who will love you past your imperfections.”

I then smiled as I zipped my backpack up and stared at her. She held my card and said with a smirk, "You got that, girl! I'm not going to front you right!" 

She smiled and I held the door open for her as we both went into the computer lab. I just want to encourage someone today to be comfortable with your own flaws. No one has a perfect body. Cosmetic surgery can’t transform your pain or strengthen your inner faith to love yourself.

It’s more than just a visual thing. It’s a spiritual thing. I hope she reads this blog post. I hope anyone who is struggling to love something about themselves that self-acceptance takes as much time as you allow it to. 

I’m smiling through it all with lymphedema. The stares, glares, and questions that may spark. I don’t have any superpower to get anyone to see things for what they are. I’m just letting you know my truth that I do not force upon no one. Loving yourself should not be a constant battle.

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