January 07, 2010

Managing lymphedema

My hand has continued to swell from lymphedema, a continuation of the troubles that started Labor Day weekend in September. I've been so tired of wearing my glove and having a sweaty hand all day long. Rik got sick of hearing me complain and came up with a suggestion -- why not stop wearing the sleeve and glove for a day and see what happens? At most it would be the same or a little worse. At best maybe there would be some improvement.

On Monday morning (three days ago) I did not put on the sleeve and glove. By evening my hand had actually reduced in swelling. So on Tuesday morning I took out the measuring tape and a pad of paper and noted my arm measurements in four places: hand, wrist, 12 cm up the forearm and elbow.

I have not worn the sleeve or glove all week. My measurements have been about the same: a little reduced in the hand, wrist and elbow, a little increased at the forearm. We're talking millimeters of decrease or increase, but as long as the cold weather continues, and my measurements don't change dramatically, I think I will continue the experiment.

I developed lymphedema just a month or so after my lumpectomy in 1999. I had a life-threatening infection of toxic shock syndrome from the drain left in the axilla (underarm) incision. This infection, coupled with the removal of lymph nodes at the axilla, most likely caused the lymphedema.

I haven't not worn a sleeve in almost 11 years. Let me tell you, it's downright weird to feel the fabric of my clothing against the skin of my left arm.

I don't think my lymphedema is gone forever, but this is sure a great break from wearing the compression garments and not having full use of my left hand.

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I dance with cancer. Oy!