Sunday, January 13, 2008
Lymphomaniac Part 2
On New Year's Eve I thought I may have developed Lymphodeama.
I carried some heavy bags just before Christmas and woke up the next day to feel like the inside of my right arm was shorter than it should be. Then, the bottom of my shoulderblade, curving round to the inside of my armpit, became exceptionally tender and slightly swollen.
A week ago, I finally got to speak to the lovely Breast Care Nurse Anne Anderson, about my concerns. She allayed my fears about lymphodeama. As there was no sign of my fingers or arm swelling it was unlikely to be that. But she did urge to keep doing my exercises and take a load of anti-inflammatory pills to try and knock it on the head. If it was still there in two weeks she advised me to come see her and the Professor.
So, I have been mainly forgetting to take the anti-inflammatories and trying to remember to stretch my arm out in various ways but the swelling and tenderness has lessened. I was hugely relieved that noone thought it was lymphodeama. And even more relieved that noone had suggested it's some sort of sign of recurrence (this thought had crossed my paranoid mind... believe me, after having cancer, you end up thinking any slight twinge could be a harbinger of doom).
I even asked her about the sleeves that many women get issued with at the first suggestion of lymphodeama. Tight surgical stockings for the arms. I'm assuming it's common in the US as I've had comments from US blogging BC friends who have urged me to try the sleeve option, plus the sleeve option is mentioned all over the Cancer Vixen graphic novel, whose author is a New Yorker.
Interestingly (for those sleeve-wearers out there) my breast care nurse suggested that recent research has shown the sleeve does not help, relieve or prevent lymphodaema as much as they had first thought. Apparently current 'best practice' for treatment is to prevent by avoiding lifting heavy weights or getting scratches or bites or anything that could cause infection on that side, and to relieve with manual lymphatic drainage delivered by a specialist masseuse.
So now it's a week since our chat and I've been decorating. All tools were downed in March when I was diagnosed, and my house is looking 'half-finished'. Yesterday I cleared out my bedroom, sanded all the woodwork down, replaced a pane of glass in the top half of the window (which meant I could remove the nasty stained perspex that had been covering it up and finally give the window a good clean), and painted the ceiling. Today I need to add another coat to the ceiling and start on the walls.
However, when I woke up this morning and stretched my arms out, my right arm was angry at me. Again, I felt that suggestion of cording, the sensation of the muscles not being long enough for the arm. I blame the sanding, and I remember now, the day before I last got this, while I thought I had sustained it by lifting heavy bags, I'd also been hand-whipping two pots of double cream to make mini pavlovas for some friends who were over for dinner.
I can't sit out silly little jobs like whipping cream or sanding down woodwork. This is me, this is everyday life, and I refuse to believe my arm cannot perform them. I suspect it's just the first time I've asked it do anything really tough since the op so it's a question of building up 'arm' fitness again so it can cope.
So, it's back to the decorating again today. And a renewed commitment to remembering to do my exercises. And if that makes it worse then we'll go see the Professor this week.
My arm will not be beaten, it will do the beating.
at 2:45 pm