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Legs Like Mine : Susan O'Hara's Lipedema Journey

January 25, 2024 Danielle Nicole La Rose Episode 30
Legs Like Mine : Susan O'Hara's Lipedema Journey
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Pretty POWERFUL
Legs Like Mine : Susan O'Hara's Lipedema Journey
Jan 25, 2024 Episode 30
Danielle Nicole La Rose

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Have you ever met someone whose strength and passion turned their personal struggle into a beacon of hope for others? Susan O'Hara did exactly that. Battling the often-misunderstood condition of lipedema, Susan transformed her life from a government manager to a social media influencer, author, and businesswoman with her own footwear collection. Throughout our conversation, she shares her incredible journey of diagnosis, surgeries, and the creation of her supportive platform, legslikemine.com, which has become a sanctuary for those facing similar challenges.

Susan's lipedema journey serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of community, understanding, and the celebration of diverse life experiences that go beyond mere appearances. Her story, punctuated by anecdotes of swimsuit confidence and online support networks, invites us to listen, learn, and re-evaluate our own perceptions, while empowering those affected by lipedema to live their lives with joy and acceptance.

Connect with Susan!
https://legslikemine.com/
YouTube.com/c/legslikemine
https://www.instagram.com/legs_likemine/ 


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Let's Be Social Media Besties: https://www.facebook.com/DanielleNicoleLaRose/
[ OR ] https://www.instagram.com/danielle_nicole_larose/
Let's Connect - Website: https://www.prettypowerfulgirl.com/

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Send us a Text Message.

Have you ever met someone whose strength and passion turned their personal struggle into a beacon of hope for others? Susan O'Hara did exactly that. Battling the often-misunderstood condition of lipedema, Susan transformed her life from a government manager to a social media influencer, author, and businesswoman with her own footwear collection. Throughout our conversation, she shares her incredible journey of diagnosis, surgeries, and the creation of her supportive platform, legslikemine.com, which has become a sanctuary for those facing similar challenges.

Susan's lipedema journey serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of community, understanding, and the celebration of diverse life experiences that go beyond mere appearances. Her story, punctuated by anecdotes of swimsuit confidence and online support networks, invites us to listen, learn, and re-evaluate our own perceptions, while empowering those affected by lipedema to live their lives with joy and acceptance.

Connect with Susan!
https://legslikemine.com/
YouTube.com/c/legslikemine
https://www.instagram.com/legs_likemine/ 


βœ¨πŸ€ΈπŸ»β€β™€οΈ Join the 75 DAY HEALTHY PROGRAM:  CLICK HERE!! βœ¨πŸ’ƒπŸ»


Let's Be Social Media Besties: https://www.facebook.com/DanielleNicoleLaRose/
[ OR ] https://www.instagram.com/danielle_nicole_larose/
Let's Connect - Website: https://www.prettypowerfulgirl.com/

Danielle La Rose:

Susan O'Hara is an author, a social media influencer, a model and footwear collection owner. Everything she does is to help women. Yes, with rarely diagnosed, Help me here.

Susan O'Hara:

Lippidema.

Danielle La Rose:

Lippidema. It affects only 11%, which is still a big percent of women, and can be debilitating physically and mentally. Susan has changed. The women with Lippidemia see themselves by sharing her outfits and activities on legslikeminecom and homegirl you are. When I see your pictures, you are just so full of energy. I just want to be surrounded by you, and I've never even met you before, but your outfits and your smile, just everything about you just exudes joy and, just you know, really like a safe space. So tell us more, susan, about how you got here, absolutely.

Susan O'Hara:

So before I started doing legslikemine and all that kind of stuff, I actually was a government manager for a long time, like 28 years, right. I worked for the FAA. I loved being able to help people and being in a position where if somebody needed help, like mentoring and stuff like that that I could do that. You know well, a few years ago I started having problems with my legs and they had developed. The Lippidemia had actually developed 22 years ago after I had my son, and I just thought that's how it is. You know, that's just how it is, and I had a foot problem. I'm a Girl Scout leader. I've been in Girl Scouts forever and stuff, and I was taken by Girls to New York City. This is a really long story. Sorry about that.

Danielle La Rose:

I love. No, we are here for this. Tell us the story.

Susan O'Hara:

I was taken by Girls to New York City and I was like man, I've got to get something done about this leg because it's killing me. And you know how, when you're in New York, you just walk and walk and walk right. So I went to a foot brace specialist and she looked at my foot and she goes who's treating your lymphedema? And I was like my what? I'd never heard the term before, right, and so I got the brace. I went back home and I started getting on the internet like crazy. I took some pictures of my legs and, yes, I did have lymphedema. One leg is bigger than the other. But I was posting on some forums and stuff and a lady was like check this out, your legs look just like mine. Do you have a lipidema? You need to go find somebody that can treat your lipidema. And I was like bingo and thank goodness for the internet.

Susan O'Hara:

So once I got that word, even heard the word for the first time, I went out and did all this research and it was really really hard to find information about it right. So I went and switched my insurances, I went and had surgery and stuff. And as I'm coming out of surgery, literally you know how, when you get out of surgery and you're clutching onto your cell phone for dear life because it's the only comfort you have when you come out, I was like I should video this and share with other women what I'm going through. And so that morning, literally they're wheeling me from the surgery center to like the nursing facility where they're going to keep me for a couple of days. I turn on my phone and I'm like, hey guys, this is Susan, I like that. And so if you go back to my YouTube channel, you'll see the very first videos are of me recovering from the first three surgeries that I had, and it's like the good, the bad and the ugly. Like that first one, my eyes are all swollen up and everything you know and I'm talking about like what it's like to go through all this surgery and everything and the post care, and then like the mental things that are going on with me too, as the first time I saw my legs after they had been reduced quite a bit and stuff, because it was a big deal, you know.

Susan O'Hara:

So I decided after I oh, I forgot to tell you this when I was in the, in the recovery center, I was getting a thousand DMs and emails a day a thousand. I did not rest the entire time. I was in recovery. I went off to a hotel by myself for a few days and I spent the whole time just helping people, right. And so I was like I have to do this, because the reason I found out about my situation is because someone was gracious enough to share a picture of her legs with me, right, and it literally was the first time. I was like I'm not a freak, I'm not a freak of nature, right, and I as I dug into it. So I started legslikeminecom. I just started logging all my stuff and sharing everything and what. I was able to reduce the thousand messages a day by answering frequently asked questions. So if people would ask me a question, I'd be like boom, here's a blog, boom, here's a blog, you know. And it helped me out a whole lot.

Susan O'Hara:

So that's why I started all of my stuff is because women are desperate for information about this. This disease is so freaky and weird and you really do. You feel like not a real woman whenever you're going around alone all this time, and then all of a sudden, they see somebody like me. My legs do look just like them. I'm a bigger girl still and all that stuff, and I'm like I am. I am living my life. I'm going to go do all the things that my body allows me to do and I'm going to show you that you should be getting your butt out of bed or off the recliner or whatever, and doing all of it because you've only got the one go do the things right. So, anyway, that's the long story. That's how I got here.

Danielle La Rose:

Yeah, it's, oh my gosh. I literally have goosebumps right now on my arms just thinking about the power Because, like you said, you know it's about living your life. You know, that's the message that I hope I put out into the world as often as possible, right Like, regardless of our bodies if our bodies are allowing us to move like that is what is most important. Right Like doing the things so okay, so tell us a little bit for those of us listening, because you know, like you said, 11% of women have this. So can you share with us, those of us who aren't familiar, so we're aware of what this is?

Susan O'Hara:

Yeah, absolutely so. Lipidema is a fat disease. It's painful, so a lot of people realize they have it. Whenever their cat walks across their legs, they might be laying in bed or whatever, and you're like, wow, why does it hurt when my cat is walking across my legs? Even ladies who are smaller, so it can affect anybody, any woman of any size, and it starts in either like times of hormonal change, like puberty, pregnancy for me that's when it happened menopause, that's when it triggers its ugly rears, its ugly head, right. So they feel this pain in their legs and their arms and sometimes in their bellies. It can affect all over your body, right, but legs are the most normal place for it to hit Easy bruising. So there have been so many times.

Susan O'Hara:

I traveled for my career for 25 years, right, and I always said I had mystery bruises when I got off of the plane, like I don't know what happened, but I've got this monkey bruise on my leg and oh, by the way, it lasted for four weeks, right, wow, and so that. But then. So those are some of the other symptoms, but what you see is a lot of the ladies who are smaller up top and then bigger down bottom, and they try and try and try. They've had lap vambi-aryatric surgery, they've been on all the diets. You see them at the gym. They just aren't losing that weight that's in the bottom part of them.

Susan O'Hara:

So and then, as it progresses, what ends up happening is we form these like nodules underneath our skin, just subcutaneous, and for me I had them behind my knees and in the middle part of my knees that felt like golf balls, like you could actually feel the fat cells that had gotten so inflamed that they felt like golf balls. And then, as it, if it progresses even further, it can go to where your legs start getting to be like the size of barrels. I mean it gets really, really bad for people that it progresses in pretty badly. So, but we've all seen the ladies that are built like me A lot of times like I don't know if you can see this or not, but if you look at the side of my arm you can see where it's kind of cuffed right here, and a lot of ladies it'll happen at the bottom of their ankles and their wrists and it can get really big right here. But their hands usually and feet usually are spared from it Once it develops into an advanced stage, a stage three or four.

Susan O'Hara:

Then we start getting lymphedema in our limbs and stuff too, and that's whenever you start seeing people who have, like skin issues and you know, really loss of mobility because it's gotten so bad. So that's what lipidema is. But I'm talking millions of people. I have followers in Australia, new Zealand, the UK, canada, I mean everywhere. It happens to everyone, you know, and it only affects women for the most part.

Danielle La Rose:

Very interesting. Thank you so much for sharing that. You know, I think I always it's so interesting to me Our bodies are the most magical machines, right, like they do so many crazy cool things, but they also do really weird things and different things and so many of us never learn, like we're not learning about how our bodies actually function and what different things are. And, just like you said, you know needing to find someone on the internet to say, hey, I think you might be experiencing what I'm experiencing, like how powerful is that? You know, and that's exactly what now you do for women. So what are some of the? You know I love the word power. So what are some of the most powerful? You know conversations and things that you've experienced with some of the women that you've worked with, and also with yourself over the past several years that you've been doing this.

Susan O'Hara:

Yeah, I'll tell you so. Not too long ago I went to Potsdam, germany, on to a conference that was mostly doctors, but there were some patients that had lipidema there. It was the first lipidema of World Congress. So the research on this is relatively new still. Just to sort of take it back a little bit, it was discovered in the early 1900s and then sort of set aside because women's diseases typically aren't the ones that are researched first.

Susan O'Hara:

Right, and the last five years more than half of the research on this disease has happened, and so the doctors worldwide are just now starting to get together and have consensus on like what the symptoms are, the treatments, blah, blah, blah. Right, they still don't know why it happens, but anyway, I was in Potsdam and every time I go to a conference now it always blows my mind, right, because I'm just like. I'm just Susan. You know you're in your room whenever you're doing your podcast or your work or whatever, and you don't realize that when I hit submit on that button, especially on Facebook, boom, 250,000 people just saw my post. Like you, forget about that, right, I'm hearing my jammies or my big suit or whatever, I'm doing so anyway.

Susan O'Hara:

So I go into Potsdam and there's this lady there named Lisa and she is like high powered CEO of a big organization and stuff, and she is fangirling on me so hard Hi, lisa, anyway. And I'm like so tell me what, tell me your story and stuff. And she said, susan, I did not know that as a woman who had legs that are deformed. And that she said I just hidden myself for so long. And when I saw that outfits that she wear, the beautiful fabrics and the way that you still fix your hair and put on makeup and fake eyelashes and all that stuff, she was like you're the first person that ever gave me permission to be beautiful again. And I was like, oh my God, I mean literally. There are so many times when I cry.

Susan O'Hara:

I'm a crier, me too, I know for someone to tell me that, like you had to get permission to feel like you could be beautiful, and I was like that is amazing. And now, and so I have to tell you, the whole time we were at the conference, she was wearing the most gorgeous clothes, like really pretty fabrics and all that stuff, and you could just tell that she was like damn it, I am going to be pretty, I'm going to do the best I can with what I have right now, and so that was really powerful for me and it's encouraging for people like me. Like you're working in this little room, right, and you forget that people are like paying attention to how you project yourself, you know. But I have to tell you some other ones that have been really, really powerful for me. And so I swim. Swimming is like the best exercise you can do for this disease, and I'm always videoing. You know, if I'm doing anything, I'm videoing. I pooped, let me take pictures, you know.

Susan O'Hara:

So, anyway, I'm not there swimming. I'm doing a video for legs like mine, and I get a thing that pops up and it's like do you have a second to chat? And I just had that feeling where I was like I should probably take this. And I took it and it was a lady who's a stage four. So she's at that point where she's her weight is too heavy to be on hospital tables, and so the doctors really, when you get to a certain point they're kind of done with you, like there's nothing they can do, and so you're kind of just stuck there. And those are the ladies that really speak to my heart too, because I just feel so terrible and I'm working on trying to fix that right so that because they're the ones that need the help the most, they're stuck in bed, blah, blah, blah.

Susan O'Hara:

So anyway, I take this call and she is despondent, like she's one call away from calling 988 for suicide support. And we talked a lot for my whole swim. I'm swimming the whole time talking back and forth, and by the end of the call she was feeling a lot better about her. You know who she was and what her purpose was in life and all that stuff. But those mean a lot to me whenever you're like you might be the only person who's willing to just listen to someone, and it's not. I mean, obviously it's not not part of my job to do that, but it is part of my calling to do that, to be there for that one person who just I mean they literally feel so, so alone. So those kinds of calls absolutely speak to me, absolutely and I just cannot imagine now my life not doing this. You know, it's just so cool.

Danielle La Rose:

It is so amazing what you're doing and I appreciate that you say that you're a crier, because I don't know if you saw it, but I start tearing up because you know it is. You know, just like you say now, woman with wearing the clothes and everything. You know we have this. Our society is so f'd up, you know, with identifying what beauty is right, like we have this, these beauty standards that are just such BS that, like you know, none of us, no matter what you look like, no matter what you're going through, you can never achieve that. And you know we just put this pressure on us that if we don't look that way, then you know we are supposed to cover up, we are supposed to hide, we are supposed to, you know, just wear.

Danielle La Rose:

I love black, so I wear all black all the time, but we're supposed to wear all black, right and just and be just. You know, try to make ourselves as small as possible. And so you're giving women that permission and not that they need it, because they don't need permission, right, like we all have the permission, but you just, standing in your power, is giving them the power to be like okay, if she can do that, then I can do that, and that is absolutely remarkable, and you are making such a huge impact in the world, and so let me ask you this so what are some of the things that you share with women, right, if they are, you know, at that really hard time? What are some of the like things that you can say to help them? You know, not move past it, but get through it.

Susan O'Hara:

Right, right, I think one of the things that's interesting, one of the questions I ask women a lot is who are you, besides having a chronic condition, right, like, who were you before you retired on disability or whatever? And you wouldn't believe the stories. I mean, it's women from every class, every education level. You know, and I love to hear like you know, I used to be a conference planner or I've got one friend, francine, who she used to be a costumer on Broadway and she tells these crazy stories about all of the people she's met, all the shows she's worked on and stuff, and you would never know it because the only thing we had in connection was our lipidema. You know, there are women now who, yes, they were in the corporate world before and retired for whatever reason, right, but now they run these at-home businesses that I didn't even know about.

Susan O'Hara:

Patty Cornute she runs lipidemafitnesscom and she is beautiful and she does these amazing things that my body just is like no, I'm not going to do that, but she's an artist and, behind the scenes, like I went and stalked her one day on Etsy and different websites and stuff and I was like you make amazing art and I would never know that.

Susan O'Hara:

So to just hear like I have more value than this lady who's got these big legs, you know, like I'm a valued human and here's my family, here's my, you know what I've done with my kids and stuff like that, to get women to talk about who they really are, is just so powerful, you know, because sometimes we, whenever you see especially somebody who's in advanced stages and they're at the mall in that wheelchair or whatever, that's all you see and you make these assumptions like, oh, she probably is at home eating buckets of fried chicken at a time and that's not the case. So to know like she's a valued person is just so powerful. And people, all people really want is to be heard. They just want someone to listen to them. So asking questions about who they are is the best thing that I've ever learned from all of this.

Danielle La Rose:

Mmm, mmm. So good, because again, women are just so much more powerful for lack of better word just so powerful and everything that they do. And again our society just takes us down to one thing of, just well, how do you look right? And so how fun it is to get to pull that out of women, to be like what are your strengths, what are your passions, what are you doing? And you know I talk a lot about you know I don't want you to think about your. You know body positive is great, but I don't really want you to think about your body anymore. I want you to think about it less and I want you to live more. And so, like that's what you're doing is helping them realize there's so much more you know to life.

Danielle La Rose:

Obviously, this is painful and lots of things happening. So it's not just about, you know, appearance but, you know, just reminding ourselves of that it is more than just how we look, that it's all those other important things about us. I love that. So what would you tell a woman who right now perhaps there's someone listening that's like, oh, wow, like I never thought that that's what this could be for me. I've been struggling, I don't know what would you tell that woman? Like the first few things, like to help her get moving in the right direction, to help her with that.

Susan O'Hara:

Right. So I mean, I think one of the things is, if you think you have it, don't wait for a diagnosis to start conservative therapies. So, like 80% of the stuff that you can do is the stuff that you personally have to do, not a doctor, not a surgeon, whatever Right. So you can buy off the shelf compression and it's not going to harm you unless you have some contraindicated things, like around heart disease and you know vein things and stuff like that. So obviously you want to talk to your doctor first. But what I tell women is, if you want to get an actual diagnosis, you need to come into the doctor's office prepared to be sitting with a physician or clinician who has not had exposure to this before. So it's not required in medical school that doctors learn about this, and right now in the United States only cardiology and dermatology have questions about the Padema on their exams, so they're not educated about it. So, one, you're going to need to know that you're probably going to have to educate your doctor about it and two, you need to and you've probably experienced this anyway need to just have the awareness that a lot of doctors will diagnose it as obesity and some doctors have fat phobia, right? So they don't want to spend the time that's needed to deal with a patient that's overweight. But if you're like me and I walked into my doctor's office with all this information from the internet and she was really open to it and she was like I've never heard of it. But let me look it up, let's go ahead and send you, you know, for full blood work to make sure it's not something else. And she was like I can go ahead and refer you to a lymphoedema therapist. So you do want to go to your doctor, but just anticipate that you're probably not going to get that diagnosis. And I'm going to pause for just a second, because the Lipidema Foundation did a study not too long ago, a survey of about seven or 800 women, and they discovered that women start getting their symptoms really early in life, some at the age of 12 and some in their 20s and 30s, but the average age of diagnosis isn't for many years later, like 47. So women go with these weird symptoms all this time and then they get this diagnosis and a lot of times they have progressed too far or, you know, really really far. So that's what you're dealing with is misdiagnosis for a long time Right. So if they can just come in with that mentality of like I need to educate my doctor, we're going to have to partner on this that's really good.

Susan O'Hara:

But so again, back at home, some of the things that you can do is really really I hate to say it because it's a really taboo subject in the lipidema world is watch your sugar Intake, your free sugar intake, and that will help reduce the inflammation in your body and then you can get to what's what the actual disease tissue is that's left. If you're able to get down to that Right. And I can flame up if I have a really bad flare. Stress is my trigger and I've had times where my leg actually doubled in size before because of a super stressful situation and then so getting the inflammation out is way harder than just not getting inflamed Right.

Susan O'Hara:

And I tell women all the time to like if you're traveling and you're you swell up during travel, you need to be wearing compression, but you also like get in the pool, get in any body of water you can, and I wrote a book about aqua therapy for lipidema and lipidema and I did a ton of research on it, and one of the things that I learned was about hydrostatic pressure. So the deeper you go in the water, the more pressure is pushing down on your body and it helps to squeeze that fluid up and out of your body. So if your feet are at the bottom, they're getting like 87 pounds. I'm going to really simplify this 87 pounds of pressure at the bottom and then like 75, 65, 55. So there's more pressure squeezing that the evil juices out of your leg, right? So get in the pool and that's really hard because nobody likes wearing a bathing suit, right. But I'm like dude, wear whatever you want to. I see women at the YMCA who come in. Just, they wear leggings and T-shirts and that's okay. The pool does not care, it really doesn't care. Wear whatever you're comfortable in, but get in water as often as you can, because it will really help get that inflammation out.

Susan O'Hara:

And the reason I'm just going to keep going for a second here, the reason inflammation is so bad is because if you get all inflamed, that means that your lymphatic fluids and stuff are just staying down there and your lymphatics are like the trash can of the body. So if you have stagnant fluid that's been down in the bottom of your legs for a really long time. What happens is it develops, it leaves proteins behind and it develops into fibrotic tissue, which that is like now, part of you, right? So even next time, if you get uninflamed, you've still got more tissue. And that's what happened to me is my leg, especially my left leg, got so large that my calves and ankles were rubbing together when I walked. And when I went into the surgeon I had this like piece of calf that was. It would just move, like one unit. It was had been fibrotic and inflamed for so long and he really worked. I mean, he came out of the operating room and he was just, and he was like I really had to work to get that out and I was like thank you so much, because that stuff hurts, you know.

Susan O'Hara:

So anything you can do to get that inflammation out of your body is super important and just keep it out. So compression, swimming, sugar those are some of the top three things that you can do, you know. And then take care of your skin, don't it? Don't like Walk around barefooted outside and do anything that would like give you more Potential of getting an injury on your leg, like you really need to make sure your skin stays moist and cared for and is in good health, and watch for sores, because If you start getting a sore, it takes a long time for stuff to heal. So yeah, there's a lot that you can do on your own. Before you ever see a doctor and many women never see a doctor about it Because they've had so many bad experiences with fat shaming and stuff they're done. They don't go for mammograms, they don't go for pap smears anymore. They just don't go to the doctor. So take care of yourself, whatever you can do.

Danielle La Rose:

So good. Thank you so much for sharing all of that. Um, oh my gosh, I have so many things that I just want to talk to you about. So, okay, let's do one more Question for you to dig into and then we'll go to some fun questions. So, um, you know, you mentioned, obviously we've talked a lot about physical Right, like how this has affected you physically, how it affects other people physically, and obviously we've talked about the emotional, mental part of it as well. But for you, what did you find really helpful For your mental health going through this process? Because obviously, like you said, there's so much shame around it, there's so much you know, just again, like your body and Appreciation and all the things. So how can you, how did you? And then how can other people really Take care of their mental health when it comes to this?

Susan O'Hara:

Yeah, absolutely so. I think a lot of women I I want to cite some information first like suicide attempts are a lot higher with women with lipidema. Disordered eating is very, very high for women that have lipidema and obviously for myself too. I'm, I have been a cycle dieter, you know, and I made up the decision once I learned about the disease and it made so much sense for me because I've had that van twice, right, I've had, I've done all the things that's let. I mean, you know, you hear that story all the time. I've done all the things, um, I decided I'm not doing that crap anymore, like I'm not gonna let myself feel guilty about eating food anymore. So, um, I for me, I made the decision that, um, I'm gonna just live, you know, and that helped me out a lot, because getting rid of that guilt, just shedding the guilt, help me so much feel like I deserve to go to this party and have the same stuff everybody else is having and not go home and feel like, oh, I need to do whatever we do, right, that's unhealthy, um, so, so just changing that mentality helped me a lot and, honestly, the first time that that lady shared her picture with me and I started watching videos and seeing other women that had shared their stories. It Did something mentally for me that just changed me. I was like, oh my gosh, like I'm not the only one and I need to quit hiding my body, you know.

Susan O'Hara:

So the support that I got from the online community really, really helped my mental health and, honestly, now the work that I'm doing helps my mental health too, because you find out like You're helping someone else get through that same point that you were. You know, um, I have a friend, april sleuther. She runs a facebook page and she is Really smart in the psychology area that's what her degrees and stuff are in and she has journaling prompts that she put out there for us and she asks these insightful questions like what are you doing to care for yourself today? And you know just whatever. And going through Her workbook and hearing what other women are saying too, because we share online what we're talking about has been helpful. So I think the the support from the online community has helped my mental health quite a bit.

Susan O'Hara:

And then I'll tell you one other thing Is and I'm going to show you a page from my book, because this will make more sense here in a second. Actually, I'll show you the cover of my book, so can you see that's me on. This is my aqua therapy book and I'm wearing a bathing suit and I Um, let me see if I can find one that's got good pictures, big pictures, in it. Um, okay, so this is me in the book. It's filled with pictures of me in my bathing suit, right?

Susan O'Hara:

Yeah, I love that and um, it's a longer bathing suit that goes down to my almost down to my knees it's called an aquatard. I went out and bought these bathing suits and I decided I love the water, I love the way it feels to be in the water. I just it's healing all that stuff right, and for years I Kind of like was easing out of the water. I started wearing men's board shorts and then I had taken my Girl Scouts to Savannah, georgia, and we were at Tidy Island and that day I decided I wasn't gonna get in the water because I didn't want the girls to see me in my bathing suit. Oh, I wish I could turn back time To that, because that message that I told my girls was not the right one to be giving to preteen women, you know. So now I wear this bathing suit, I go to white water, I go to where I go to the beach. Oh, I go snorkeling.

Susan O'Hara:

I've been all over the world snorkeling in these paintings, right, and the second I put it on I decide I'm here to have fun, I'm never going to see these people again and I'm just doing it, right. And what I've noticed? Last I was in Mexico not too long ago and I was out there. I always get questions about the bathing suits, right? Um, I saw other women who had been covered up over the course of the day. It was either the alcohol at mr Sanchez beach club or it was the influence of other women who were out there just having fun, you know, taking off those cover-ups and just going out in their bathing suits and having a great day.

Susan O'Hara:

So it helps me mentally when I see other women who were doing that too, because it's like boom, we're a force to be reckoned with. You know, we have a right to be in the water just as much as everybody else and, believe it or not, I think there are a lot fewer skinny minis than there are out there. Then there are women who are more curvy and who've had kids and everything else. So why not enjoy what the earth has to offer to us, you know? So all of those things have helped my mental health and, um, honestly, I've been on antidepressants for ages and I'm not getting off of them because I don't want to know. I mean, that's okay and mental health is health, you know. Yes, so anything that you can do to to improve your mental health, do it every single day, do it.

Danielle La Rose:

Yes, yes, oh my gosh, I wanted to stop so many times and say, yes, girl, yes, I'm sorry I have all the snouts, because there's so many good things there. It's like, yes, just so much, so much goodness. And again like the powerful message you know again is take care of yourself and surround yourself with people, right. If you're on social media and you see people and things that trigger you, that don't make you feel qualified and beautiful and fabulous, then there's an unfollow button right, and there's communities where people are, and there are people you know that you can follow in groups, that you can be part of. You know, and I think it's really important also to share that. You know you're sharing about Lebedema, right, and you know your body and women that look like you. But at the same time as you're talking, I'm like I have felt those things right. I've covered up on a beach. I've been wearing shorts since sixth grade because I have a lot of cellulite on my legs and I thought that was ugly and it was bad and I should never let anyone see I was on the beach with a cover up. Or I went on trips where I didn't go into the water because I didn't want anyone to have to see that right, and I worked really, really hard on that. So you know, it's an important reminder that, regardless of your body shape, your body size, the disease or whatever your body you're going through, that you pick out as the flaw because our society has told us it's a flaw. Like, your feelings are valid, right and we can all relate and connect to that message. So I just want to thank you because, as you're sharing that, you know, if I were to see you, you know, at the beach, I'd be like, yes, girl, right, and then be like what am I doing? Why am I sitting here, not getting in the pool? You know, like, if she's doing that, I can do that right, and so it's just so powerful, everything that you're doing, thank you. And also I want to just also call out because a lot of this is, you know, we're sharing. You know, if someone it you know, comes to your social media and they see your page and they're like I think I have that I need support with that. That's one thing I also want to call out.

Danielle La Rose:

If you are someone who has never heard of this before like me, right, and a lot of people and perhaps you're someone who does you mentioned it before, so I'm going to use this as an example of someone in a wheelchair, right out of store, and you instantly go to that thought of, like you said, they're at home. They must be at home all the time eating their fried chicken. That's it. This is a. This is a time to check yourself right, that you don't get to judge the way that people look and assume what is happening behind the scenes, because we have absolutely no idea whether someone is very small and you're like, oh, they must be in great shape, you don't know what, you don't know what they're going through behind closed doors. And the person who is larger, you don't know what's going on behind closed doors. So we all get to take the second to say shut up, close, get those thoughts out and instantly ask ourselves could it be something else? Right, and number one, it's none of our business. But also can we choose to have more empathy and think, oh my gosh, I heard that podcast about that woman who has that and it's actually a disease, it's not actually xyz, right, and I get to shift those thoughts. So I just think that's a really important point to call out to, because many people have been in that situation and I think this is a really important thing to remember and I appreciate you for for bringing that up and and calling that out.

Danielle La Rose:

So, okay, are you ready for some quick, fun questions so we can get to know you ready? Yes, okay, because we've done all this talk, which, again, I could talk to you for hours about this, because I'm obsessed with learning about bodies and understanding people's thoughts and how they go through things, but, at the same time, we literally just talked about how women are so much more important than how they look. So, with that being said, I want to know more fun, random stuff about you. All right, random, fun questions. Okay, you can. I don't believe in cheat meals. We have meals, so what is? But what is one of your favorite meals that, if you can only have one for the rest of your life, one more meal, what would it be?

Susan O'Hara:

Okay, so it's chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, homemade rolls and probably some delicious dessert chocolate involved. This is what I'm going to say. Is that my? I actually have a blue folder underneath my desk that says when I die, it's got great big letters on it and it's got all the insurance stuff and everything, and it has directions to my family that I don't want a funeral, I want a bonfire and everybody there must eat chicken fried steak and chocolate cake.

Danielle La Rose:

Oh my gosh, this is the best answer I've ever had on the podcast. I'm obsessed with this. That is genius. Now I need a folder that tells people what to eat after. And your meal sounds amazing. I mean, I'm here for that meal. Um, okay, so I will. I already know the answer to that one question we've talked about a lot. Okay, you can only watch one TV show for the rest of your life. What do you choose?

Susan O'Hara:

Oh my gosh, you're going to think I'm such a dork. Probably Ted talks.

Danielle La Rose:

Okay, not a dork, but it's a different one.

Susan O'Hara:

I love them. I know I love any documentaries, anything about other people and their success and stuff like that, and I do. My husband will walk in and he's like what are you watching? And I'm like Ted talks. Okay, bye, I'm out.

Danielle La Rose:

I love that. That is so good. Okay, what? Who is one powerful woman that has inspired you in your life?

Susan O'Hara:

You know Oprah Winfrey, I will tell you and I know that's such a common answer but I love where she came from and what she did with her life to get to where she's going. And then I like how she uses her platform now for good for all of humanity. I think it's wonderful. Also, just as a side note, I copycat a lot of her outfits. You know she's paying some stylist a ton of money and I love the way that she dresses on top of all that other stuff too. I just think she holds herself. I think she feels a responsibility to use her life for the best good, and I love that about her.

Danielle La Rose:

So good. Okay, so that leads me to my next question. What is your favorite piece of accessory or an outfit or something of yours Like your absolute favorite?

Susan O'Hara:

Yeah, so I will tell I wish I had it with me. My dad died when I was 19 years old and he was a big man I get my size from him and he was six foot six. He had hands that were like this to my right, and when he died he had a wedding ring that had been resized many, many times over the years and it was a size 16, white gold. And whenever he passed away my mom kept the ring for a long time and then finally I took it from her, thinking okay, I'm going to do something with this ring. And there were time of course, we all have hard times in life Whenever I just felt like I need my daddy and I would take that ring out of my safe and I would sleep with it on my hand just so that I could feel him being close to me.

Susan O'Hara:

So a few years ago, my sister and I took that ring to a jeweler and we had the gold cut in half and I had a ring that I bought giant, ridiculous, gaudy, tacky, sparkly mosa knight stones on top of it, and I had the jeweler make me this ring and I only wear it for special occasions because I feel like it's so treasured, but it's so big and ridiculous that it might attract a mugger someday. And they can have the stones, but they can't have the gold, because the gold is precious to my heart. So that is my absolute favorite thing, and when people compliment me on it because you can see it from across the room, it's just ridiculous, right, and I'm like it's mosa knight, but that's not what's important about the ring. So that's my. I just feel like it was on my dad's hand for all those years and I love it so much.

Danielle La Rose:

Mm, that is so good. I love that. What would you say are your top two strengths?

Susan O'Hara:

Courage and confidence. And, of course, I'm going to get back to Girl Scouts. Girl Scouts has this theme building girls of courage, confidence and character that make the world a better place, and I truly believe that a lot of the things I learned from being in Girl Scouts and getting to lead activities and plan programs and do all of these things that were like really cool experiences Did give me the confidence to speak up and then the courage to be able to be like I'm going to be myself, you know. So I definitely think those are two of my strengths.

Danielle La Rose:

I love that. Okay, what does it mean to you to be pretty powerful?

Susan O'Hara:

So be pretty powerful. That's really interesting. So I will tell you. If you watch my social media stuff, you will see days when I'm not wearing makeup. I do lots of posts from my pajamas in this chair, where my hair is jacked up or whatever, and I still feel like that is pretty powerful because it's so relatable to other women. I mean, there are days when you just can't, I just can't put foundation on or whatever. But finding my voice, no matter whether I'm decked out for photo shoots or whatever, I'm real, I'm in the bathing suit, I'm jumping in the pool. I have power by my willingness to share and speak like my real self right, like who I really am, and I think that that's what it means for me.

Danielle La Rose:

So good, yes, okay. What is one daily or consistent habit that helps you step into your confidence and self-love?

Susan O'Hara:

Wow, that's interesting. I would think so, learning every day I read. I've always got by my desk stacks of books. I go to the library and I get 10 at a time. So I think that it helps me to feel like more legitimate and this is probably some of the some weakness in here too, right, but I feel like, with my education and what I've learned, that it helps me to be able to speak more powerfully and like with more authority, and so I try and learn as much as I can and just have a moment where I can think through the some of the things that I've learned and how I might be able to use them, and it really does improve my confidence.

Danielle La Rose:

So good, yes, I love that. Okay, so I'll finish with this one. If there is one powerful piece of advice that you could leave for little girls or women in the world, what would it be?

Susan O'Hara:

It would be. Think about the long term. A lot of times we get hung up in how I feel right now, and it really is that. You know we hear these quotes all the time. Will this matter in five years? You know, what really matters is the love that you share, the people you spend time with, but the longer term effects of things. So if you're in a funk right now, or you're feeling like self conscious, or you had a bad day and somebody treated you badly or whatever, think about what your long game is. And it's so hard to understand that when you're a child, because you really are in your own little world. But if I could go back to myself as a little girl and think through like girl, all these things are lessons that you're going to need to help make you stronger for a longer term. You know it's just think a little bit further out than where you are. You know, don't just focus on the now and your feelings right now, because feelings are going to come and go, you know.

Danielle La Rose:

So good, all right. Where? Because everyone's going to be obsessed with you like I am now. So where would you like people to go find you and hang out with you to learn more, get support or just simply just be in your presence, because it's inspiring?

Susan O'Hara:

So I'm on legs like minecom. I've got all the socials and I really am having a lot of fun with my YouTube channel, which it's, you know, youtubecom slash, see, slash legs like mine, really easy to find and I have a getting close to 200 videos out there that I've been doing for the last couple of years. Instagram is a lot of fun right now for me and Twitter is probably slowing down quite a bit, but that YouTube channel, I'm telling you that's where you can if you want to see the real Susan YouTube channel, because you'll see what's on this side of my office that you know doesn't ever show one just like that. But yeah, legs like minecom.

Susan O'Hara:

Absolutely all of my books are on Amazon. I have four books out there right now and you know I love for women to, especially my first book, jeans on a beach day. It is a book that I am more than willing to send to doctors. I write personal notes in them all the time. It's got links to the standards of care and diagnostic criteria and stuff like that. So if you have a doctor who is just not hearing it but you want to continue your relationship with that doctor, send me their address and I will. It's not a way, it's not a good thing. I'm just like hey, you've got a patient who might have this. She asked me to send this to you. I'm marking up the link to the standard of care so that you can educate yourself on it. Feel free to drop me a line and I will be happy to send them and authors copy at my expense.

Danielle La Rose:

Oh my gosh, that is amazing. How brilliant to like really make more impact and and just truly help in a very powerful way. That's amazing. Thank you so much, susan. That's awesome, so I will. I will also drop all the links to all your places in the show notes so people can just click and go, so there's no trying to find stuff and being confused if it's you or not you. I got you any last words that you have that you want to share that maybe you haven't yet. Before we say goodbye.

Susan O'Hara:

Yeah, absolutely for women who are struggling with lipidema or anybody issues. Right, don't give up. Do not give up. Don't ever spend one day where you're like I'm not getting out of that bed because the one turns into two, turns into a week, a week turns into a year, every single day. Get up, move in some way. Do the best you can with what you have today. If it's you know, yesterday you were Like not even caring for yourself. Do one thing to care for yourself today. Just do one thing so that you can keep forward progression in your life.

Danielle La Rose:

My drop and, with that, my friends. That is the Susan who is so amazing. Thank you so much today, susan, for being here and sharing all of this incredibleness with me and with my friends. You are simply amazing. So thank you so much and, friends, I will talk to you on the next one. Bye, bye.

Susan O'Hara
Empowering Women With Chronic Conditions
Challenges and Strategies for Managing Lipedema
Overcoming Body Image and Mental Health
Body Acceptance, Empathy, and Inspiration