Why did this model's leg double in size?

By Paige Haydon

A former model has been left with a ginormous leg after her pregnancy caused the limb to double in size. Photo / Caters
A former model has been left with a ginormous leg after her pregnancy caused the limb to double in size. Photo / Caters

A former model has been left with a ginormous leg after her pregnancy caused the limb to double in size.

Sarah Buller, 31, from Perth, was left horrified when her left leg began ballooning when she was three months pregnant.

Doctors diagnosed Sarah with primary lymphoedema - an incurable condition that causes swelling in the body's tissues - after she'd given birth.

Sarah's pregnancy had triggered a chronic problem with her lymphatic system, meaning the lymph fluid is unable to circulate around her leg properly now - leaving it weighing 12.7kg.

The mum-of-two, currently living in Nice, France, now spends hours every day bandaging her leg, using compression socks, exercising and having massages in a bid to relieve the excess fluid.

Sarah Buller has started a blog called Lymphosaurus Rex. Photo / Caters
Sarah Buller has started a blog called Lymphosaurus Rex. Photo / Caters

In May, Sarah sold the family car and spent $22,369 worth of savings on Vascularised Lymph Node Transfer (VLNT) surgery, where healthy lymph nodes were taken from her armpits and inserted into her leg in a bid to reduce swelling.

Sarah has now written a blog, Lymphosaurus Rex, to raise awareness about treatments and to help other sufferers embrace the condition.

The fulltime mum said: "When I was about three months pregnant my leg just blew up and doubled in size.

"It was like one day I went to bed with two normal legs and the next morning I woke up and had one huge leg in comparison.

"I was so shocked but doctors did tests and nothing showed up so I guess we all just hoped the swelling would go down after I gave birth.

"But the bigger my bump got the bigger my leg got too and it just never went back.
"I was diagnosed shortly afterwards and I felt so isolated and alone, instead of enjoying precious moments with my new baby girl I was having to bandage my leg constantly to try and reduce the swelling.

"Then when I fell pregnant again it made my leg worse, this time my ankle flared up to, doctors diagnosed me with stage two lymphoedema.

"To started wearing baggy trousers and long dresses to hide my leg as I felt ashamed, but now I've learnt that lymphoedema is a part of who I am so I want to encourage people to embrace it too."

Sarah has compared her leg to a ticking time bomb as it can flare up from a tiny scratch or bump.

Sarah said: "The slightest knock or bump can cause a huge flare up.

"When I was first diagnosed it was like hey you have a huge leg, it's going to be that way forever.

"I was never told about surgeries or options that could make a huge difference.
"After starting my blog and Instagram page I was made aware of all the different treatments available and I realised how many people all over the world were suffering from the same thing".

Buller was horrified when her left leg began ballooning when she was three months pregnant. Photo / Caters
Buller was horrified when her left leg began ballooning when she was three months pregnant. Photo / Caters

"In May I underwent surgery which involved taking healthy lymph nodes from just below my armpits and putting them in my leg to help.

"The surgery takes minimum one year to start working and see significant results but I've seen a huge difference already.

"I shared my journey online on my blog, Lymphosaurus Rex, to help others.

"I came up with the name as I think of my leg as a beast, it's like the elephant in the room.
"I'd recommend anyone to explore the different options for the condition, I'm never giving up and although there's not a cure yet I believe I will beat this condition."

Sarah admits that until recently the biggest impact lymphoedema had was on her own self-esteem due to strangers staring and making rude remarks.

Sarah added: "I often have strangers coming over to me when I'm out asking bluntly what's wrong with my leg.

"I often just laugh now and tell them I've been attacked by a shark and walk off, it definitely stumps people."

"I've only become more confident recently and started wearing shorts and dresses again, having lymphoedema can make getting dressed a real challenge.

"I only have three pairs of shoes that fit now due to the size of my one foot, so I've ditched the heels and wear flip-flops most days.

"But I was fed up of feeling like an old woman and then I read about other people feeling down and realised that every person with this condition should still feel beautiful."
Sarah is supported by her family including husband Bruce, 38, daughter Charlie, three and son Jagger, one.

Sarah said: "My family are my world and I can't thank them all enough for keeping me positive.

"I want to show others that even with lymphoedema you can still wear anything and be beautiful, don't hide yourself away."

A spokesman from The Lymphoedema Support Network in the UK said: "The lymphatic system is the silent warrior of our bodies it quietly goes about its jobs of fighting infection, keeping the fluid in our bodies balanced and even fighting cancer cells and yet most of us don't even notice it is there."

"Sometimes however, if our lymphatic system does not develop properly or if it is damaged, then it stops doing its job and the effects of this are all too noticeable.

"Many people living with lymphoedema become sad and even depressed, others choose to face it head on and not let it interfere with what they want to achieve but most people, like any of us, have good times and bad times and it can be of such value to hear inspirational stories from those who, despite their condition live wonderfully fulfilled lives."

- news.com.au

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf03 at 26 Sep 2016 20:49:42 Processing Time: 625ms