From the moment Dr. Amron diagnosed me with Lipedema, I’ve been trying to figure out how to pay for Lipedema liposuction. Unlike cosmetic liposuction, Lipedema liposuction is a medically necessary procedure that patients see success in eliminating the pain associated with Lipedema. Late-stage Lipedema liposuction treatments can total over $100K in costs because many procedures are required. Presently, Lipedema liposuction is not covered by any medical insurance. The only option patients have is to pay for these procedures out of our own pockets. So, when Megan the Stallion offered to send cash to a few people in need, I shot my shot.
I need more liposuction than Joan Rivers had in her entire lifetime. Meanwhile, my life is sugar-daddy-deficient and my CashApp is dry. The ‘Rona still has us housebound and I do not have “Megan the Stallion knees.” Who am I to turn down an opportunity at some WAP money?
‘Hot Girl Meg’ didn’t send me any money. However, her platform caught the eyes of a very special reader. Chris at Kaiser Permanente Member Services caught wind of my tweet and hit me up.
I spoke with a representative over the phone about my current needs. He referred me to a caseworker. My ‘case’ is now being ‘investigated’ and I have an opportunity to testify. I’ve been given a date and a window of time for the call. This is my opportunity to make a plea to the panel of people deciding my fate. They will determine if Kaiser Permanente will cover the costs of Lipedema Liposuction procedures with my chosen surgeon outside of their network. The pressure is on.
When I saw Dr. Friedlander again in 2019, he declined to take me on as a patient. I was devastated.
My Body is Fascinating
I have more Lipedema on my upper body than my legs. I have a wide back that can be attributed to the Lipedema in my flanks and under my arms. My arms are filled to the brim with nodules. The skin on my arms is stretched to capacity and very thin. I’m constantly ripping the skin open in the shower, during working out, or while driving. My arms are the most affected by Lipedema, however, I have it in my neck, chest, breasts, flanks, back, belly, pannus, and legs. Most surgeons that have experience removing Lipedema are fascinated by my body. They spend a great deal of time trying to find where my Lipedema stops and my healthy fat begins.
I visited Dr. Friedlander back in 2018. I was a smoker then and he told me that he wouldn’t perform Vaser Liposuction on a smoker. So, the day I left his office I decided to quit. I smoked cigarettes for more than 15 years and tried to quit several times in my life and failed every time. All that prior failure prepared me to succeed this time around. I cried from morning to night through the cravings for weeks, joined a Facebook support group, worked out at the gym, and drove to the woods for serotonin and dopamine. I finally let myself fall apart and found new ways to take care of myself and it worked. Its been more than a year since I smoked a Marlboro light.
When I saw Dr. Friedlander again in 2019, he declined to take me on as a patient. I was devastated. I spent a year quitting smoking, staying active, living a plant-based lifestyle, and maintaining my weight. He spent a year gaining experience with more patients who had Lipedema. He had a very different opinion about my body now. Before I even undressed, he suggested that I look into weight loss surgery to reduce my size. Since beginning my Lipedema surgery journey, I learned to not allow doctors to offer me a “prescription for weight loss” without examining me first.
Once I got his consent to undress, I did. I pointed out exactly where I have Lipedema and asked him to touch those areas to confirm my thoughts. As soon as he felt the nodules under my skin, he engaged in examining me. I held my arms up in the air as I rotated like a chicken on a rotisserie. He confirmed that I had Lipedema in my arms, upper and lower belly, back, flanks, upper buttocks, legs, breast, and chest. We moved on from talking about weight loss surgery. He was now concerned about the rare chance that I didn’t have any losable fat on my body. I couldn’t tell if Dr. Friedlander was kidding, but he would not be the only doctor to be concerned about this.
Lipedema & Thin Skin
Dr. Friedlander explained that there is a high risk for burns from Vaser liposuction with skin as thin as mine. My arms have so much Lipedema that I’ll also have to consider skin removal. He suggested that I connect with Dr. Herbst or other doctors doing Lipedema research. (Dr. Herbst wasn’t seeing patients at that time). Having thin skin and an overwhelming amount of Lipedema complicates my Lipedema treatment journey. Dr. Friedlander emphatically encouraged me to pursue having the procedures covered by Kaiser and not settle for paying for the procedures I need out of my own pocket.
I Love L.A.
I took Dr. Friedlander’s advice and scheduled my first trip to
Los Angeles. I saw Dr. Emily Iker at the Lymphedema Center. She used ultrasound technology to show me where Lipedema was and how thin my skin was. Dr. Iker also spoke openly and emotionally about her personal journey with Lymphedema. She advised me to focus on having Lipedema removed because it’s causing me pain and threatening my mobility. I felt very comfortable talking to her. Dr. Iker was the first doctor to offer me care right in her office. Her staff helped load me into a Lymphapress for a round of Lymphatic massage. She also suggested that I stop eating gluten and, like Dr. Friedlander, Dr. Iker insisted that I ask Kaiser to cover the cost of all of my needed procedures.
Pleading My Case to Kaiser Permanente
I’m not looking forward to reading my testimony. Reflecting on the kind of care I was able to receive outside of Kaiser with doctors more familiar with my body, pain, and needs are driving me to take one foot in front of the other, uphill, against this fire. Advocates and others have warned me that Kaiser doesn’t often say, ‘Yes’ on the first or second or third appeal. This is the hardest I’ve ever fought for anything. I hope that I say something in my testimony that changes their hearts and minds. The Lipedema community deserves a win. I’m doing this for earlier diagnosis, fewer barriers to treatment, and obliterating fat-bias in the hospital because these are the things that would improve care for all of us. I wish us luck. For more information on medical coverage for Lipedema Liposuction, visit coverlipedema.org
Read Part II “My Testimony to Kaiser Permanente”