Friday, October 9, 2015

Building a Team (New: Lymphedema Therapy)

Yesterday I met a very insightful lady. She was informative, caring, we have an interesting number of quirky things in common, and she gave me a headache.  Yes, a headache.  She worked me hard, though she did all the work: my first assessment and massage for treatment of my pain-in-the-leg lymphedema.

I have been procrastinating on this method of treatment for over a year, don't ask me why... I think it has something to do with general denial of my situation and having enough appointments to deal with already and being a busy Mom blah blah blah.  
I know that getting help with lymphedema is a whole-life approach, but I also know that if I want to fully rehabilitate my body after the beating it has gone through in the last year and a half, then I have to stop weaseling out of the lymphedema appointments and get my ass in gear. Literally, like hang that mole excision scar out there and let a professional help me with the healing.  

Indeed as I suspected, I will be learning how to properly care for my limb post-surgery, and that includes a holistic methodology for my head-to-toe mess.  Diet and fluid-intake tracking, walking and post-cancer exercises, massage therapy, manual lymph drainage, stretching/yoga/pilates, oh dear this is as big as I was afraid it would be.  

In my experience, fear and procrastination go hand in hand.  BUT, due to the nagging - Ahem encouragement! - of the Warden, the Curser, the Cheerleader, and my girls, I finally dragged myself to the lady who has studied hard to become qualified enough to deal with me.  

And I am glad I did.  I am ready to give myself the time and energy that I have known all along I need to do.  I will have to work hard; though she was very caring yesterday I detect a hint of Drill Sergeant in her therapy and I will be held accountable for my part in this effort.  We will work together.  

Work me she did too... the lingering headache is actually a side-effect of the detoxification she massaged my remaining lymph nodes into doing.  She explained the basics of the technique and informed me that I will learn how to help with lymph drainage as my homework also.  Eeek... for over a year I have pretty much avoided contact with my right leg as much as possible because it is uncomfortable.  There is a unique combination of heaviness, numbness, and tingling that plagues my every day use of the leg, but it turned out to be okay for her to touch it.  Out of my comfort zone I jumped, and gave it a sincere try. 

Patiently she listened to my story and what my concerns are now with my body, and she gently reminded me that I am not alone in this journey and to just take it step by step.  She said something I identify with: I am "building my team."  She is correct, I have a huge team and I am apparently still building it.  In addition to my loving family(ies) and friends, my medical team is growing in the diverse way I have always wanted it to. 

It did help that we had calming quiet conversation about our commonalities, namely Motherhood, Melanoma, and even Maserati! I like this lady - she was in Europe earlier this year so we talked caprese salad and Italian coffee.  My goals mesh with her experience, and I am grateful to have met her and to be working with her. 

I will be going back weekly for the near future, with my notebook detailing diet and activity and any patterns I may notice in the progress of my lymphedema limb.  I can tell already, I will learn a lot about how my body works with regard to lymph and glandular function.  Stuff I thought I already knew enough about!?  HA. Learn something new every day.  

Couple of neat points I learned yesterday about lymphedema:
  • lymph fluid (I know that sounds gross!) is a protein-rich fluid which travels along the lymph nodes throughout the body, helping the body to expel toxins and waste stuff through the pores, perspiration and saliva.  
  •  anyone with lymphedema has to watch for infection in that limb - especially cuts or insect bites - as it can become a problem very quickly.  Patients with advanced lymphedema (which mine is NOT) can be so vulnerable even as to have a standing order for antibiotics that can be filled immediately upon a danger sign, that is how quickly infection can become a problem. 
  • my affected areas are two-fold: my right leg from the node dissection surgery for metastatic melanoma in May 2014, and my left shoulder and neck area from thyroidectomy and removal of 37 lymph nodes for thyroid cancer in December 2014.  I am permitted to consider getting a new tattoo after my clinical trial is completed, but I am not permitted to get it on my left shoulder as I was thinking I would.  Interesting for sure (and not a devastating piece of information, I just thought it was intriguing)

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