By Nathalie Bonney @nathaliebonney
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Videographer / director: Zack Tzourtzouklis
Producer: Nathalie Bonney, James Thorne
Editor: James Thorne
Ada Thompson, 38, from Tyler, Texas was born with primary congenital lymphedema. Even as a baby she had to wear extra-large nappies to accommodate the swelling on her leg.
As she got older the lymphedema on her leg has grown to the point that she can no longer wear any form of trousers, having to endure rude comments and stares when she is out in public.
But rather than hide away, Ada hopes to spread a message of positivity and happiness, constantly singing, smiling and dancing wherever she goes.
Ada, who weighs 460lbs, told Barcroft TV: “If I didn’t have lymphedema, I wouldn’t be the size that I am.
“I sing, I dance, I turn my music on and I’m all around the apartment dancing because my situation could be worse.”
Born with congenital lymphedema, a birth defect of the lymphatic system that causes swelling in the body’s tissues, it typically develops in the arms and legs. In Ada’s case the whole right side of her body is affected.
“You can get it further on in life – me I was born with it. It’s where you may have a blockage or damage to your lymphatic system. My mother, when I was little, she took me to all kinds of doctors’ offices trying to get me answers and try to get help to where I just kept on and kept on, never giving up but the condition has worsened over the years.
“When I was younger, I could wear pants, all kinds of clothing and shoes but now I can’t be comfortable wearing just a regular pair of jeans.”
Currently there is no cure for lymphedema; but treatments such as fluid pills and compression devices are designed to help reduce fluid build-up. In Ada’s case because the volume of fluid is so high these methods have limited success.
Ada said: “I have tried several types of alternative treatments and therapies.
“I have tried to look into liposuction] for people who have lymphedema but Medicaid weren’t going to pay for it - they just offered the compression socks which I have tried and didn’t work.”
When she was 19, Ada underwent surgery to have a large mass, the size of a grapefruit, removed from her leg. While Ada’s mobility greatly improved after the surgery, because the fluid builds up over time, the long-lasting effects of the surgery have been limited.
Because of her condition Ada isn’t able to work. She tries to get out of her apartment at least three to four times a week and says it’s important to keep a positive outlook in spite of the heavy burden – both physically and mentally, that having this condition can put on her.
“It is a struggle: sometimes I have a walker. I have my good days and I have my bad days.
“When I have a pretty difficult day, I have my electric chair.
“I hope I can inspire others with lymphedema don’t give up on yourself.
“It’s a struggle but you just have to toughen up, get up and slay ‘em.”
Well known by the local community in Tyler, Ada says she enjoys spreading smiles with her infectious dancing and singing.
Her cousin Sharman, who lives just five minutes from Ada, describes Ada’s positive outlook and refusal to stop doing things because of her lymphedema.
She told Barcroft TV: “She just keeps going, she does a lot of things, I know sometimes it may bother her when she is alone, she may think about it, but when she is with other people it doesn’t phase her.”
Currently single, Ada admits she has found dating difficult, with lymphedema becoming a mental block to Ada believing any man would find her attractive.
She says it left her feeling: ”like they don’t want to talk to me because of the way I looked.
“I have actually messed up a couple of situations where the guy was genuine, but I was stuck on to the way I look and the way I am.”
Focusing on how to live as positive and full a life as possible Ada says she is open to dating in 2019 and wants to continue to be an inspiration to people with Lymphedema.
Ada adds: “I have to accept the things that I cannot change the things that I can change strive to change.”