I am a breast cancer survivor that developed lymphedema approximately five- six months after breast surgery. It didn’t help that I was also going through chemotherapy at the same time. In fact, it caused my extremities to swell even more. It all started when I took a nap one day and woke up to my arm being swollen beyond belief. I couldn’t believe it! I thought to myself this cant be happening…but it surely was.
I went to the emergency room to get it checked out and it seemed like forever before they confirmed what I’d already figured out. I now had lymphedema and needed to start treatment as soon as possible and I did but I didnt know what to expect. I was nervous and anxious to find out what my treatment plan was because I wanted to get this thing under control.
I read about this condition when I was first diagnosed but no one ever thinks its going to happen to them until it does, including me. I was a little naive when thinking about it but the reality is that there are people living with this condition that aren’t breast cancer patients.
According to http://www.mayoclinic.org, Lymphedema refers to swelling that generally occurs in one of your arms or legs. Sometimes both arms or legs swell.
Lymphedema is most commonly caused by the removal of or damage to your lymphnodes as a part of cancer treatment. I had a lot of lymph nodes removed which caused my lymphatic system to be impacted severely and I developed lymphedema in my arms and legs plus I was going through chemotherapy which also made the swelling worse. My feet swelled so bad that I could only wear flip flop sandals not to mention the pain associated with it.
I had lymphedema treatment three days a week which included deep tissue massage to move the fluid and alot of bandaging on my right arm and compression stockings on my legs and feet. I felt hot and uncomfortable all the time and it didnt help me that it seemed to be a hundred degrees every damn day lol! I was going to make it through this and I was determined to.
It wasn’t easy especially since theres no cure and it can last for years and even a lifetime. I went to lymphedema therapy and eventually I was able to get out of the bandaging for part of the day by wearing a compression stocking and glove in the daytime and having to bandage up at night.
Part of my therapy included learning how to bandage my arm myself and it proved to be very difficult for a while but I did get the hang of it. But I noticed something, when I all of the bandaging came off, my arm would appear small but my arm would fill up with fluid in under 20 minutes.
The compression stocking and glove would keep my arm from swelling up but I wasnt to wear it all the time so this made it difficult to do things like wash the dishes and I wasnt allowed to carry anything heavier than a gallon of milk.
That was so challenging because I had very little strength especially in my right hand and arm. I would constantly drop things all the time so I used paper plates and styrofoam cups alot. I started picking up one bottle of water and curling it 5 times each arm. I needed exercise and to follow the Dr’s orders and I did talk to him and he ok’d it as long as I didnt over do it.
I did that for a while and it made me feel better but I was still dealing with my arm swelling regardless of the garments and bandaging that I wore to get this thing under control yet none of this was working anymore. I even tried custom compression garments that didnt work and no to mention at that time $828 that wasnt covered by my private insurance. Another bill I rambled to myself!
I finally decided to go without my lymphedema bandages and compression garments totally and just elevate and exercise it as often as possible. The result is that my arm is actually smaller and remains the same size unlike when I wore compression garments. I dont recommend doing this without consulting your doctor.
I was just tired of doing what wasnt working for me and until I find something that helps, I wont be wearing any garments for my condition that are not working for me. I couldn’t work and wear the compression garments in the jobs that I worked in because the garments are easily stretched out shape, stain easily and definitely wear out quickly.
Overall I have more peace with my decision and I feel a lot better without all of that and its allowed me to have some sort of freedom and to do a little more than I had been previously. I’m beyond grateful to still be here!
Until next time…with Chocolate on top!