Last month, I saw a news posting about Bachelorette’s Cam Ayala.
He had just had an amputation due to lymphedema. I hadn’t heard of Cam until learning of his experience with lymphedema. (I don’t watch the Bachelorette; I actually don’t even own a TV!) It’s unusual to hear of an amputation being needed as a result of lymphedema. Is it possible for lymphedema to require amputation?
I am not aware of any cases in which lymphedema alone was the cause of an amputation. I would be certain that there have been a few amputations when no other treatment option was available or when no one knew better. There are many cases (particularly in a leg) when other factors may be the root cause. For example, someone may have poor arterial blood flow (which carries oxygen & nutrients to tissues). Such a condition is peripheral artery disease; ischemia could cause tissue death & require amputation. Someone may have a severe accident, damaging a limb so extensively that salvaging the extremity isn’t possible due to blood vessel damage, lymphatic vessel damage, tissue damage, etc.
According to the government site (Medline.gov),1 factors that may lead to amputation include:
- Severe burns or frostbite
- Nonhealing wounds
- Loss of function or loss of sensation (increasing risk of injury).
Cam was diagnosed with primary lymphedema at age 11. I wondered about the possibility of lymphangiosarcoma. But apparently, he had had numerous knee surgeries (17 in total) on his primary lymphedema leg in the past. The 16th was a knee replacement that wasn’t done correctly.2 He also had a blood clot at some point & developed osteomyelitis – a serious bone infection. With lymphedema, the ability to fight infection is already reduced in the involved extremity.
The June 2022 surgery was an elective, above-knee amputation. He opted to have it done due to concern of a potential recurrence of osteomyelitis. If such infection did reoccur, a prosthetic device would likely be more difficult to fit, and a higher amputation would be needed. You can listen to an interview just before his hospital discharge here (skip to minute 7.45).
In another video,3 he talks about the challenge of people’s perception (skip to second 16). We live in a society that seems to demand perfection & social media exacerbates the illusion of perfection. He suggests what he’s learned is to “find your peace [with your own shortcomings], give yourself grace & surround yourself with people who are going to build you up, not just bring you down.” It reminded me of author Bronnie Ware’s findings.
Bronnie worked in palliative care. She summarized common themes in a book called Regrets of the Dying. They included:
- Having courage to live a life true to yourself & to not live by what others expected of you.
- Not working so hard you neglect relationships that matter to you.
- Having the courage to express your true feelings.
- Staying in touch with your [real] friends.
- Not letting the fear of what others will think prevent you from enjoying life & laughing.4
They boil down to relationships (with others & yourself) & not letting fear limit your potential. Having spent some time with people who were facing their own mortality myself, it’s sobering to recognize how the anticipation of an impending death causes many unimportant things to fall away. Sometimes hitting rock bottom (as Cam talks about) can create a similar moment when things of lesser importance fade, & you take stock of life. You take time to reflect. You take time to listen. And your perspective shifts.
For anyone who may have an amputation & thinks their athletic life is over, check out these inspiring people: https://www.scheckandsiress.com/blog/10-famous-amputees/. Visit the Amputee Coalition5 & the Challenged Athlete Foundation6 to find out about sports opportunities for people who have had amputations.
Rest assured, lymphedema alone is seldom a reason for amputation. Cam had several surgeries, a blood clot, osteomyelitis and a poor knee replacement that culminated in an elective amputation from which he is recovering. He anticipates getting his prosthesis around July/August. Best wishes to Cam in his recovery & going on to lead an amazing, happy, fulfilling life as I am certain he will. Heck – he’s already got tickets to see Lauren Daigle in September! Enjoy that mid-September concert, Cam!
1 Medline (https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/007365.htm)