One of the complications that can arise from cancer treatment and surgeries is lymphedema. I had over 25 lymph nodes removed during my mastectomy (that's a lot)..... basically all of the lymph nodes under my arm are gone. That means my lymphatic system on that side is compromised, and the lymph fluid that keeps everything flushed out can build up.
I've been lucky.... in the three and a half years since that surgery, I've only had some minor incidents of swelling in my left arm.
My luck ran out.
Apparently working long hours in 100 degree heat for three days straight at the softball fields was too much for my poor compromised left arm to handle. Even though I wore my sleeve, my forearm, wrist and hand have been swollen worse than ever. I had to take my wedding rings off because they were cutting off the circulation on my finger. Being unable to wear my rings makes me sad (just ask Hubby.... I almost cried when I had to take them off for surgery).
I now have elephant man hand.
Maybe I'm being a little dramatic, because looking at that picture, it's obvious but not horrible, right? However, once you have small signs of lymphedema, you can easily fall down the slippery slope into more extreme cases.
"Hand lymphedema is more difficult to control than arm lymphedema. The hand’s irregular shape, its critical role in daily activities and the difficulty inherent in precisely fitting a gauntlet/glove all contribute to this problem. It is vital that early signs of hand lymphedema be taken seriously and that appropriate modifications are made to a patient’s lymphedema maintenance program."
I have an appointment on Monday with a lymphedema specialist and I hope he/she can help. I was treated by a wonderful occupational therapist right after my surgeries, but she's in Dallas. Since therapy often involves multiple sessions, I really needed someone local. Fingers crossed.