Another round of medical appointments this week. The first one was a visit with a Lymphatic Therapist. If you want to see something scary, do an Internet search for “photos of lymphedema of the arms.” Oh, the horror, the terror! It makes me think of the Michelin Man, and yet another thing to freak out over and worry about happening to me.
I had an hour-long appointment with her, starting out with an exam and then a discussion on all the ailments that can develop in the lymphatic system after lymph node surgery. It turns out I have developed something called “lymphatic cording.” It is the development of cords under the tissue of the armpit that limit range of motion and are painful and tender. I kinda got the feeling that they don’t understand much about it. Everything I have read so far, has been vague and not easily understandable.
I guess this “cording” is the reason why my arm has been getting worse, not better. It feels like a painful rubber band on the inside length of my arm and armpit, every time I use it. It’s a painful pulling and tugging when I reach for anything. My range of motion is becoming limited from the cord tightening and from being afraid to use that arm. Just the act of lifting my arm to turn off a light, hurts.
Stretching, massage therapy and warm heat are the cure. I’ve been working on that, now that I know what’s going on. To me, it had appeared I needed to rest the arm more, from the surgery. I thought I had been overdoing it, and instead it was this lymphatic cording thing going on. I was doing the opposite of what was needed. Wish I had known sooner, so that I could stretch to prevent it. But hey, lymphatic therapists gotta eat too.
After the cording discussion, we moved on to discuss lymphedema. I had heard of it before, but never knew much in detail. For the rest of my life, I’m not supposed to have blood pressure taken on that arm or an I.V. or even any shots. I’m supposed to take precautions when flying, by using a compression sleeve. I shouldn’t shave (Yeah, right!) or if I do, to do it very carefully. I was warned to prevent bug bites, sunburn and hangnails. Good luck with that! In fact, I had ripped off a hangnail the day before and had bled profusely on that hand. Oohhh tsk, tsk! I sunburn severely and easily. In fact, I still have stripes on my feet from a sunburn I got through my sandals last June! I’m gonna be so bad at all of this.
The therapist said that 20% of patients who had lymph nodes removed will develop lymphedema at some time in their life. Eek! Interestingly, at my second appointment of the week, with a my radiation doctor, SHE said not to believe the therapists. She said current data shows that only 5% will develop it and that I shouldn’t stress about it, because I had a Sentinel Node Biopsy, which carries less risk. Good.
It was at this second appointment with the Radiation Oncologist that I got me some tattoos. Yeah baby, I got me some bona fide tats! These will be marks used for the radiation therapy. They will use the tattoos as a target, so they can be consistent in alignment when they zap me. Yes, I will have them for life and there are four of them.
They are the size of a freckle and the only one that bothers me, is one off-center at the top of my cleavage. Does anyone not understand how symmetry is important? The mechanical designer in me is annoyed. Well, that’s where they needed it, and there ain’t no moving it now. If I was OCD I would be having anxiety. Prayers for the OCD breast cancer survivors. 🙂
Some women have turned their radiation tattoos into other tattoos once radiation is finished. Like stars, survivor ribbons, hearts, etc… We’ll see if mine bothers me enough to do something like that down the road. Doubtful that it will, I’ll adapt, I always do.
Next week is another appointment with the lymphatic therapist and then Tuesday, the big appointment with the oncologist. Dun, dun, dun… Hopefully final test results will be in. I am awaiting the genetic testing, and my Oncotype Dx score. Hopefully I will find out then, if they recommend chemo or not. Unfortunately, I have this anxious feeling that I will have to. I was warned of a 50/50 chance. Please, please no, but I will do whatever to prevent going through this again. I’m hurt, I’m sore, I’m tired, I feel alone and stressed. Still, I was VERY blessed to have caught it early. So many others have had cancer far worse than I, and my heart goes out to them.
I don’t want to lose my hair, but I think I could rock the bald look. I ask myself and await what good, God can make out of this bad.