Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Lymphedema - here we go again

Lymphedema - the very unpleasant, very uncomfortable, sometimes painful, forever debilitating condition sometimes experienced by breast cancer patients who must undergo the radical mastectomy surgery that takes not just the breast tissue, but also the axillary pad, the fat pad full of lymph nodes, in the armpit. Someone like me.

I hate it, I hate it, I hate it!

But I'm stuck with it. In researching anything and everything I can find, I discovered this link that gives one of the best overall descriptions of the lymph system. Lots of excellent info in easy to understand terms.

So I have again visited a CLT, certified lymphedema therapist, for treatment. This was my third try and this time I lucked into a terrific gal, Angela, who speaks my language and is understanding and kind and helpful!

The first t
hing she did, after listening to my tale of woe of my experiences back in May, was bring out a couple charts explaining the lymphatic system, making it easier to understand how it works, and how the manual lymph drainage works and why the suggested massage patterns help.

She agreed with all the previous diagnoses in that I must deal with this thing every single day for the rest of my life. But there are considerable differences from the information I received in the past.

First, because of my particular degree of swelling, she recommends I go thru the compression bandage therapy for a month, after which I must wear a compression sleeve every day, plus a glove (because my hand swells so badly). And I must learn the fancy technique of wrapping the compression bandage
, so that I can apply that every night at bedtime.

Second, I had been told to limit any exercise of my right arm, and pick up no more than one or two pounds. A good margarita weighs almost that much! :o)

That was depressing as hell, particularly since I am right-handed, and walk with a cane using my left hand. Angela said that is rubbish. Regular daily activities and exercise are good things, as they keep the muscles active
and help keep the fluids moving. Wearing the compression sleeve is important in this instance because it doesn't allow the fluids to collect - it helps force them out of the arm by the constriction it provides.

Third, she was surprised that the prescription provided by the previous therapist hadn't included a glove, and indicated the wrong size sleeve had been ordered as well, saying it wasn't tight enough to do much good.

Then she wrapped my arm up. First she rubbed on some goop because I had complained of major itching the last time, and so far it's working wonderfully well (and I will get the name of it when I see her tomorrow!!).

Then came a full arm sleeve, different texture in hopes it wouldn't be so scratchy.

We start the wrap with the fingers. Angela used a heavier weight gauze for the fingers, and started further out towards the tips, using more wraps per finger, securing each wrap back around my wrist.

Then came the white cotton batting, wrapped, overlapping, from around my knuckles all the way up my arm. This provides a firm unstretchy basis for the compression wraps to follow.

The ace type stretchy bandaging foll
ows. It begins around the hand, working progressively up to the armpit. It's tight, but not killer tight, although typing is really very difficult!!

Then another stretchy sleeve ove
r the top to help hold everything in place.

Angela didn't use quite as mu
ch bandaging as I had previously, and made sure that I had enough flexibility that I could drive my car and otherwise be able to take care of myself - a decided treat after my last experience. I was totally helpless with the first compression bandage - if Suzie hadn't been here at that time, I don't know what I would have done!

So far, I still must eat with my left hand, and I haven't a clue how I'll shower. I have very little movement in my fingers, which makes almost everything difficult, but I guess I'll live.

Oh, and she obviously didn't mind that I wanted to take pictures - in fact, she recommended it!

I was VERY depressed about the whole situation again last night, but thankfully my sweet Silver Fox called and helped me get my head back o
n straight. He tells me we're going to get a diamond encrusted glove so that I can do some silly MJ skit at next winter's 'talent' show here at the park. I don't think so!

I still hate it, hate it, hate it, but it's just another bump in the road.

The Animal Rescue Site

LogoThere is
person with my name in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?