For most of her life, Nicola Yates has been in constant battle with lipoedema – a hereditary condition which causes abnormal build-up of fat cells in the legs and arms.
Nicola, 45, has suffered from the painful condition since she was a teenager, but it was only after seeking help from a specialist clinic three years ago that she was diagnosed with lipoedema.
Now, she is hoping to raise £20,000 for treatment, which Nicola says is almost impossible to receive through the NHS due to funding.
In addition to raising money, Nicola is also wanting to generate awareness of the condition, which can often be mistaken for obesity.
People who suffer with lipoedema often have bodies that look out of proportion with their legs and arms. Feet and hands are not affected, with the condition creating a bracelet-like effect above the wrists and ankles.
Limbs can be painful to touch and bruise easily, with dieting and exercising having very little impact on the affected areas.
Nicola, who suffers from lipoedema mainly in her legs but is also starting to notice the condition in her arms, said: “I first went to the doctors when I was 18, asking ‘what is wrong with my legs?’ but they told me that it was just my shape and I shouldn’t worry.
“I started fad diets to try and loose the weight in my legs, but they just kept getting bigger than the rest of me.”
On one occasion, Nicola was told that she was overweight by a doctor and offered Slimming World vouchers, despite her efforts with following an intensive exercise regime at the gym and receiving advice from a nutritionist.
She also underwent a series of massage treatments, but this made no difference to her legs.
After Nicola had her first child, the condition worsened, and she ended up ballooning to almost 20 stone. She said: “I had given up with the fad diets and I was fed up that no one seemed to understand.”
Nicola – who now competes in kettlebell lifting – has since lost seven stone, but her legs remain two sizes larger than her body.
She added: “It is not just about how I look, it’s how the condition makes me feel – I am in constant pain, and mentally and physically exhausted as I try so hard to keep on top of it, regularly exercising and eating healthily.”
In a bid to afford the life-changing treatment, which involves four surgeries and the removal of around 20 litres of fat from the legs, Nicola has taken to social media to raise awareness of the condition and will be holding a clothes sale this month.
Nicola says that she has been overwhelmed at the response so far. She said: “From posting on social media, people have messaged to say that they think they have the condition. I’ve also had other people message me to say that they’re running a race and would like to raise money for me.”
A fundraising page has been set up by friend, Chastidy Parks, who trains and competes alongside Nicola in kettlebell lifting. On the page, Nicola – who has also recently been diagnosed with Grave’s disease – has been deemed as an inspiration by friends.
The fundraising page can be found at: http://www.gofundme.com/nicola-yates
Nicola’s second-hand clothes sale will be held at Pill Memorial Club on March 9, 10am – 3pm.
Story published in March Portisheadvoice