Not a rosy experience. Cam Ayala is reflecting on his time on The Bachelorette, calling the way the show handled his lymphedema battle a “missed opportunity for the show.”
“One thing that just, like, still to stay crushes me is that was my coming out of being lymphedema patient. I had been hiding it for years. If you were to look on my social media prior to The Bachelorette and all the other reality TV stuff, I never talked about it,” he said on Us Weekly’s “Here for the Right Reasons” podcast. “I never even had pictures of me wearing my garments because I was ashamed. I was in hiding. So to have a show that has millions of people who watch it, I could have had a better representation for the lymphedema community by wearing my compression garments with pride, by talking about it and not having [the conversation] removed from what actually aired. That was really disheartening for me. And even in the Bachelor in Paradise reunion, I had a T-shirt made that said ‘I have lymphedema, Google it.’”
While Ayala told Us that he told the producers he was going to wear the shirt so they couldn’t “edit” him anymore, they blurred out the writing.
“This is my moment to bring representation to the 10 million Americans who don’t know how to fight for themselves, who don’t even know the name of the disease that they have,” he said. “That was kind of the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
Fans met Ayala on Hannah Brown’s season of The Bachelorette in 2019. When he spoke about his decades-long lymphedema battle, which has included 17 surgeries since his diagnosis at 11, he was accused of trying to get a “pity rose” from the season 15 lead.
“That was probably the other most disheartening part about the conversation I had with Hannah and what was actually aired with what I was speaking about to Hannah,” he told Us. “I talked about how in 2017, when I had a really bad, bad infection, I almost had my leg amputated, like, that was almost a reality back in 2017. And I basically conveyed that to her. I said, ‘Look, I know a lot of these guys here in the house are younger than me. They may be stronger than me. They may be more handsome than me,’ but I told her, I said, ‘I have a different kind of strength. It’s a strength that has persevered from all these surgeries from fighting this disease daily. And that’s the kind of husband, that’s the kind of man I’ll be as someone who will fight for you daily.’ And to have something as serious as a near amputation literally edited and portrayed in like a slapstick comedy kind of way. That crushed me.”
Ayala underwent an eight-hour above-the-knee amputation procedure on June 22.
“Then the fact that now I actually had to go through and get the amputation, there still hasn’t been any reach out from the franchise or any remorse from any of the guys on my season,” he continued. “Be like, ‘Oh bro, I’m so sorry, like, I had no idea that it was that serious.’ It was the serious back then just as it’s serious as it is right now. And I think that’s the message that needs to be relayed. If contestants are gonna open up their hearts and tell you things that are especially having to do with a disease that should not be held against them like it was for me.”
The Bachelor in Paradise alum added that the situation still “blows my mind.”
“I just never thought that my lymphedema would be something that was used against me and that whole environment because I was very transparent and clear with Hannah,” he said, noting that he wouldn’t have been able to do physical group dates so he wanted the Alabama native to be informed. “To me, that would’ve felt more calculated and manipulative, if I would’ve pulled her aside there in that moment, be like, ‘Oh, hey, by the way, I can’t participate in today’s activity because I had this disease.’ I wanted to tell her as soon as possible. And I, you know, finally did get an opportunity to tell her and she received it well, but that was very shortlived because right after I had the conversation with her, Mike Johnson, and I think maybe some other guys in the mansion, had told her that I was basically coming up with this big, last-ditch effort to stay in the competition.”