Before cancer invaded my world, I had no clue.
Let me educate you.
Lymphedema is swelling in an arm or leg caused by a lymphatic system blockage.
The condition is caused by a blockage in the lymphatic system, part of the immune and circulatory systems. Lymphedema is most commonly caused by lymph node removal or damage due to cancer treatment.
The main symptom is swelling in an arm or leg that may be accompanied by pain or discomfort.
Since I had tons of lymph nodes removed during my initial surgery, my lymphatic system on that side is compromised. With no lymph nodes, the lymph fluid has nowhere to go, and it can build up.
I've tried to be diligent about preventing it to the best of my ability. I wear my compression sleeve when exercising or out in the heat, on an airplane or if I feel the tiniest bit of swelling. I make sure to always get my blood pressure taken on my right arm, and avoid needles (shots or iv) on the left side. In three and a half years I haven't really had any issues.
Cancer really is the gift that keeps on giving. Aside from the fear that every ache and pain, cough or rash could be cancer, there is also the possibility of a surprise lymphedema diagnosis years later!
I saw a lymphedema specialist Monday and she taped my arm until the wrapping supplies came in. Well...... they came in and I saw her again today. Lucky me.
I have five, count them, FIVE layers of stocking, padding and bandages on my arm. And I get to do this every night for the foreseeable future. BLAH. I'm lucky that my therapist took pity on me. Normally a patient would wear this 23 hours a day. Since my lymphedema isn't extreme and is mostly localized in my forearm and hand, I can get away with wrapping at night and wearing my sleeve during the day.
It's a very good thing that I've never broken a bone. I would NOT be a good patient if I had to wear a cast. My son had to unclasp my necklace tonight because my arm wouldn't bend far enough to reach it. I had to stretch a rubber glove over my hand to cook dinner. I have an ITCH in the crook of my elbow.... that I can't get to! Oh, and I live in Texas and it's SUMMER.
We are leaving tomorrow for a road trip including a softball tournament, visits to two different friends in two different states, and ending up in New York to see my parents. I will be traveling with my little bag of wrapping supplies and hope between me and my son we can figure out how to duplicate this crazy contraption on my arm.... every night.
I know there are much worse things I could be dealing with. It's uncomfortable and restrictive and annoying..... but not life threatening. I'm not sick, I'm just swollen and achy and pissed off that this happened.
Just goes to show you you're never really "in the clear" from anything cancer-related.
I guess I get to add another color awareness ribbon to my profile. I should go jewelry shopping. 😄