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Late to the party but taking a stand...

My name is Teresa Sanderson, known as Tess and I am 55 years old. Yes, I am coming to the Pageant World quite late! There are lots of reasons for this, but the main one is that I have Lipoedema, although it was not diagnosed until I was 49, meaning that I have lost a lot of my mobility as well as confidence and belief in my abilities. Having spent my entire life being told I was just fat and lazy, I wasn’t good enough, to find that my body state was not my fault ,that I have a disease, which may have been curbed had it been diagnosed earlier, was both a relief and devastating.

It took five years, of almost grieving a life lost, to come to terms with my diagnosis. Many ladies my size and with my issues simply hide away, as we are regarded ugly in today's society and years of being told this and telling ourselves this, takes it's  toll. Add in decreased mobility and my development & training career lost to a body that betrayed me, you have a deathly mix. Two years ago I decided I would not hide away any more, I needed to live my life, not just merely exist.  My entire life has revolved around dieting, exercise and wondering why I could not lose weight off my bottom half - and beating myself up about it - that does things to your mental state too. 

In between all this I had two accidents which permanently damaged my back and shoulder, suffered with endometriosis for 35 years and in recent years was diagnosed with fibromyalgia too. Any of those things could have broken me and there have been very dark times - but always I would come back to ‘what’s the alternative?’.

Lipoedema is also known as painful fat disease - it affects around 11% of women, (men are rarely affected) so you will know someone with the disease. It could be your sister, your mother, a friend, a colleague. Chances are they don't understand what is wrong with them (neither does their GP) and have been misdiagnosed as obese or misdiagnosed with something else. The symptoms include easy bruising, permanent pain, pear shaped figure especially at early stages, nodule like fat that does not respond to diet and exercise and sometimes a band affect at the ankle - feet are not affected unless at late stage where lymphoedema may also be developed as a consequence.

Lipoedema UK - are an amazing charity - the first Lipoedema Charity to be formed in the UK, back in 2012. The charity was formed by patients with healthcare professionals and stays in that format to this day.  I help out at the charity and attend various conferences to help spread awareness. Lipoedema UK support our members to work with their GPs and healthcare professionals to find treatments available in their area.

Lipoedema UK’s conferences provide members with the latest information from internationally renowned specialists, surgeons and researchers as well as practical advice and inspiration on exercise. Nurse Consultants provide advice on compression garments for the membership. Lipoedema UK work with St Georges Hospital, London and Royal Derby Hospital, Nottingham on their genetic research project plus co-operate with the Lipedema Foundation and Lipedema Project in the US on their research projects. Lipoedema UK’s mission is to educate all doctors and healthcare professionals to recognise and diagnose Lipoedema, so that everyone with Lipoedema receives appropriate advice and care.

I decided on Miss Voluptuous as the Pageant for me because I admired their ethos. They are looking for women who are / want to be empowered and want to empower others, who believe passionately in their cause and want to tell the world about it. Yes we like to dress up, we like to feel special, but we are real women, with life stories and experience, who will work together, support each other and be an example to others. 

I want to make a difference - to help other women and to ensure that no woman has to go through my experience. By getting early diagnosis and managing their condition, ladies have the chance of better life quality and less likelihood of the disease progressing and leaving them mobility impaired. You cannot underestimate the power of knowing what is wrong with you and how to deal with it. To not know is to be living a lie and storing up problems not just physically, but for your emotional and mental health too. 

Together, We Can Beat Lipoedema. 

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