Yup, I’ve been mummified once again. What is it? It’s called Lymphedema and it does get tiresome explaining to people as they freak out when they see my arm, thinking I’ve been in some horrific accident. Which I guess is kinda true, it was called cancer and was an awful accident. So here is the definition of it:
Lymphedema, also known as lymphatic obstruction, is a condition of localized fluid retention and tissue swelling caused by a compromised lymphatic system, which normally returns interstitial fluid to the thoracic duct and then the bloodstream. The condition can be inherited, though it is frequently caused by cancer treatments, and by parasitic infections. Though incurable and progressive, a number of treatments can ameliorate symptoms. Tissues with lymphedema are at risk of infection.
Sounds fun, right? What it boils down to is during my breast cancer surgery they had to remove a lot of lymph nodes in my arm as they had cancer in them. However, you need those lymph nodes to manage fluid in your arm, without them your arm swells. There are ways to manage the swelling by using compression garments to force the fluid back up your arm. I’m special though and I’ve got a dozen sleeves, gloves, one-piece sleeves but nothing works. My swelling starts right in my fingertips which makes it very hard to start the compression there.
For the most part it isn’t too bad, it’s always swelled, just depends how much. But when they weather is warm or humid, it gets worse. When I do a lot of lifting, physical work, it gets worse. A lot of events aggravate it (like walking in a mall with your arm hanging down). Lately it’s been really bad, my skin feels really tight and it’s hard to move my wrist (we’ve been doing basement renos so that meant emptying the basement, lots of physical activity!).
So for this week I am doing the wrapping everyday to get the swelling down. That means wrapping each finger first in a sticky tape, then a cloth sleeve, then a piece of foam wrapped all the way up my arm, next are the 4 packs of tensor bandages getting progressively looser as I wrap them around my arm up to the shoulder. I’ve actually skipped a couple items this week. I would normally also have a piece of material on the back of my hand wrapped with a gauze bandage.
Usually once I get my arm all wrapped up, I begin to notice my thumb is numb! Haha. So I either have to suffer on, try to loosen the tape on my thumb or worst case, unwrap everything and begin again. Ugh. Having the sticky tape on my fingers makes everything more difficult (typing, pulling up your pants, getting a jacket on, etc).
Most times I accept my fate but when it gets bad, I do get pissed about having this condition (only for the rest of my life …). I know there are worse things so I do try to focus on that. I could be dead, ya know?? 🙂