The Role of Friendships When Living With a Chronic Disease

Being diagnosed with a chronic (long-term) condition such as lymphoedema or lipoedema can turn your life upside down. It can also impact your relationships with existing friends and create barriers to making new ones.

The Role of Friendships When Living With a Chronic Disease

Living with lymphoedema or lipoedema is more than just wearing compression garments. It also means changing eating behaviors, exercising and moving more regularly, and meeting with healthcare professionals to create a treatment plan. This is not an exclusive list. From one day to the next you have to manage all these new things while continuing with the activities and responsibilities that existed in your daily life before your diagnosis. You might frequently feel overwhelmed and not in the mood for socializing.

How to Maintain Friendships

There are different ways to deal with the diagnosis of lymphoedema or lipoedema. While some days you may appreciate someone’s comments or questions about your compression garments, at other times these may trigger negative emotions. However, questions are bound to come up, and being prepared for them may help navigating these situations a bit easier. You can decide how in-depth to make your reply and you can, of course, simply say that you don’t want to talk about it at that time and move the conversation on. You can decide whether to be an ambassador and raise awareness of lymphoedema or lipoedema, or you might simply refer friends to a website or blog you like. Ultimately, the way you deal with your situation is entirely up to you. There’s no right or wrong way to behave, and you should do whatever makes you feel most comfortable.

How to Build New Relationships

We are all human beings and, as such, we need social interaction. So, even if your first reaction after being diagnosed is to hide from the world, you should try to step outside again. Connecting with people who are in a similar situation can be a good way to boost your confidence again. A platform like LymphConnect allows you to talk about your experiences, thoughts and fears with people who are going through a similar situation, or have been managing the same condition for longer. Keep in mind that your mental health is equally important to your overall wellbeing as your physical health. Meaningful friendships are an important part of robust mental health and connecting with people facing similar challenges can have an incredibly positive impact.

How to Get Started

First of all, think about what you are in the mood for. Do you feel more confident talking about your situation with your family and friends? Are you looking forward to connecting with new people in a similar situation? No matter what, here are some tips about how to maintain or build new relationships when living with lymphoedema or lipoedema:

  • Strengthen your existing network, or even expand it by reconnecting with old friends or classmates
  • Connect with new people from social networks or platforms to share your stories and get advice
  • Find others to support your treatment. For example, people who will join you in exercising or taking walks in the nature, or who like cooking healthy meals

What is your lymphoedema or lipoedema story? How did you manage to cope with such a new situation? Help others benefit from your experience by sharing it on LymphConnect

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