The Bachelorette's Cam Ayala Has Lymphedema — Here's What That Means

Photo: Courtesy of ABC.
If you’ve been watching The Bachelorette, you know that Cam Ayala is a controversial character. With an aptitude for disrupting other people’s dates and his very own catch phrase (ABC, always be Cam), viewers are dubbing him one of the season’s “villains.” With that said, no one is all bad, and that cowboy-boot-wearing Cam guy has actually been through a lot in his life. In a 2018 Instagram post, Ayala revealed that he was diagnosed with Lymphedema in 2002, which he describes as a “non-curable condition that is often misdiagnosed and completely understudied by medical professionals across the [world] [sic],”
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“I was told by dozens of doctors and 'Specialists' that I would never be able to play competitive sports, and that I would have to manage this condition for the rest of my life,” Ayala wrote. “Receiving that news as a 12-year-old boy was devastating because all I wanted to do was play [basketball emoji], [baseball emoji], and [football emoji] with my friends [sic].
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Okay, long post here. This is something that I have never been public about because I never wanted sympathy or for people to feel sorry for me. In 2002 I was officially diagnosed with #lymphedema a non-curable condition that is often misdiagnosed and completely understudied by medical professionals across the 🌎 I was told by dozens of doctors and “Specialists” that I would never be able to play competitive sports, and that I would have to manage this condition for the rest of my life. Receiving that news as a 12 year old boy was devastating because all I wanted to do was play 🏀 ⚾️ and 🏈 with my friends. After visiting over 20 clinics, I was finally given some treatment options. Through manual lymphatic drainage massage, leg pumps, and custom compression garments, I was given a second chance to live a “normal” life again. This didn’t come with countless nights of excruciating pain, swelling, and mental agony. Through the support of my family, friends, and music, I stopped focusing on my misfortunes and started prioritizing the blessings that I often took for granted. Fast forward to 2014, I experienced my first “episode” of infection in my right knee. The past 4 years brought me to the top medical hospitals in Houston, Los Angeles, and Phoenix. After enduring 13 surgical procedures, the only consensus that the doctors came to was....amputation. The thought of losing my leg gave me crippling fear and anxiety. How would I ever be able to dance with my future wife, play sports with my future kids, and maintain a healthy lifestyle? As fate would have it, the experts at Boston Children’s Hospital performed a diagnostic procedure that saved my leg from being amputated in Dec. 2016. What I learned from my experience is that you HAVE TO 1) stay vigilant in your journey for treatment and answers. 2) Empathy and Sympathy are great but you ARE NOT entitled to them 3) “Pain is temporary, love is necessary” - Lil Wayne 4) There are support groups and resources available IF you seek them out 5) NEVER be ashamed of your story, it’s yours, and not everyone will understand nor is it your obligation to make them Wishing you a #MerryChristmas and a #HappyNewYear #2019

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When Refinery29 contacted Ayala for comment, staff from Warner Bros. Worldwide Television Marketing said Ayala was “not available to interview until after he is no longer on the show. If/when that happens, we’ll be in touch.”
What Cam’s Condition — What is Lymphedema?
Dr. Emily Iker, M.D., is the Director of Lymphedema Centre in Santa Monica, and a lymphedema patient herself. Iker says that lymphedema causes your arms or legs to get swollen, and it often only occurs in one limb. Lymphedema happens because of some form of blockage in your lymphatic system, which is part of your immune system, she says. This means lymph fluid can’t drain properly, and the fluid buildup leads to swelling. She says that there are two kinds of lymphedema, primary and secondary. Primary means it happens on its own, and is sometimes diagnosed on babies or kids. But secondary, which is more common, occurs when lymphedema is caused by another condition, such as cancer. We don't know for sure which Ayala has.
Refresh my memory — what does Lymphatic system do again?
According to Mayo Clinic, the lymphatic system “circulates protein-rich lymph fluid throughout your body, collecting bacteria, viruses, and waste products." Then it carries the waste in your lymph vessels, which lead to the lymph nodes, which filter the waste with infection-fighting cells. But this draining process is slowed or disrupted when someone has lymphedema. Dr. Tiffany Lester, M.D., medical director of Parsley Health in San Francisco and advisor to The Nue Co, says she thinks of the system as a literal toilet. “We want it to be flushing continually, but sometimes it gets backed up, and people experience that as lymphedema or swelling and puffiness,” she says. “It can swell to the point where it disrupts your arteries and your blood flow. It can be a really serious condition.”
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Iker says she doesn’t advise playing sports, especially contact ones like boxing, when you have the condition. It can cause further swelling in an already swollen system because of the impact, she explains.
How do you treat lymphedema?
You can’t officially cure the condition, but Iker says there are treatment options. Here’s the route Ayala took: "After visiting over 20 clinics, I was finally given some treatment options,” he says. “Through manual lymphatic drainage massage, leg pumps, and custom compression garments, I was given a second chance to live a ‘normal’ life again. This [came] with countless nights of excruciating pain, swelling, and mental agony. Through the support of my family, friends, and music, I stopped focusing on my misfortunes and started prioritizing the blessings that I often took for granted.”
Iker says that these treatment options are definitely valid, and says there’s also surgical management options, such as Lymphaticovenous anastomosis, which the Lymphedema and Lipedema centre explains as “a method of directly connecting the lymphatic vessels in the affected area of the body to the tiny veins nearby.”
Are there lymphedema complications?
According to Ayala, yes. In his instagram post, Ayaya said that he experienced his first “episode” of infection in my right knee in 2014. “After enduring 13 surgical procedures, the only consensus that the doctors came to was....amputation,” he wrote. “The thought of losing my leg gave me crippling fear and anxiety. How would I ever be able to dance with my future wife, play sports with my future kids, and maintain a healthy lifestyle? As fate would have it, the experts at Boston Children’s Hospital performed a diagnostic procedure that saved my leg from being amputated in Dec. 2016. [sic]”
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Iker says it’s uncommon for lymphedema patients to have this many surgeries, but noted that Ayala isn’t her patient, so she couldn’t explain for sure why Ayala had so many. She said that it’s very unlikely a leg would need to be amputated because of lymphedema. She says that you can usually just treat infection with antibiotics.
But again, Iker didn’t know for sure what Ayala was going through, because she hadn’t seen his medical chart.
What has Ayala learned from his lymphedema?
Ayala wrote out a list of things he’s learned from his experiences living with lymphedema in his Instagram post. The advice isn’t bad, and he even gives quotes Lil Wayne.
“You HAVE TO:
1) stay vigilant in your journey for treatment and answers.
2) Empathy and sympathy are great but you ARE NOT entitled to them.
3) “Pain is temporary, love is necessary” - Lil Wayne
4) There are support groups and resources available IF you seek them out.
5) NEVER be ashamed of your story, it’s yours, and not everyone will understand, nor is it your obligation to make them.”
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