Out and About: National Mall

I’ve lived in the Washington, D.C. area for nearly three years, but have only made a handful of trips to the National Mall. With gorgeous fall weather rolling across the East Coast, however, it seemed like an obvious choice for a COVID-safe outdoor activity that would also let me move my body.

We started at the Lincoln Memorial on the East end and I was hit with a wall of memories and gratitude. The last time I was there was pre-diagnosis. D.C. was in the middle of a sweltering heatwave but I was doing my best to entertain out of town house guests. I was swollen, exhausted, and trying to hide how out of breath the stairs made me. No matter how hard I tried I was grouchy and exhausted by midday, Ubering home to crawl into bed and curse my aching legs.

What’s wrong with you?! I cursed my 35-year-old body.

The word “lipedema” and my diagnosis in 2020 literally gave me back my life. This time I felt like Rocky Balboa bounding up the stairs in my CZ Salus compression. “I’m not even out of breath,” I whispered to my husband, holding back most of the tears.

We gradually made our way West to the gorgeous fountains at the World War II memorial. Traditionally reserved and slightly awkward in public, I surprised myself by kicking off my shoes, rolling up my compression, and joining the kids dangling their feet over the edge.

My face, my heart, and my whole body smiled as I closed my eyes, laid back, and let the sun warm my body.

Eventually I dried my feet and we crossed the road where something else took my breath away. The field at the foot of the Washington Monument was filled with neat rows of white flags, the sort surveyors use the mark boundaries, spreading up and over the hill as far as I could see.

Each flag represented one American who had died as a direct result of COVID and a large signboard carried the ever growing official total. I knew the number – I hear it on the news every night – but I found myself overwhelmed with emotion as the weight of that number and those lives hit me. Names, dates, and messages of love and sorrow were handwritten on many of the flags. We miss you mom, read one. Beloved brother and courageous doctor, another.

How did we get here? I wondered as I watched a volunteer walk onto the field with more flags in her hand.

I know a lot of people worry about whether lipedema and lymphedema increases chances of side effects from the COVID vaccine. Please consult with your health care and, if they say it’s safe, consider getting vaccinated. In the spring I received my two doses of Moderna and didn’t even have a sore arm. Our lives are hard enough – give yourself some peace of mind. You deserve it.

What’s right in your backyard that you never find time to visit? Could you go this week? Leave a comment below and let me know where you plan to go!

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