Boosting the Lymphatic System 

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I want to share the links below and the importance of caring for our Lymphatic System. Have you ever wanted to know why you may get frequent colds, headaches and body aches? I have been doing some research on what foods can help my lymphatic system as I continue to heal from my last surgery, which was a lymph node dissection. What I have come across has opened my eyes afresh to the “hows” and “whys” certain foods effect the body.

This information totally makes since! Our lymphatic system needs to be understood! We can do so much to prevent diseases and many diseases are preventable! I remember hearing time and again as I was a child, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Let’s learn and turn around our habits so we can live with more energy, vitality, and freedom!

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My New Practice… Lymphatic Care

Greetings! It’s November and my favorite time of the year. The sun is low but warm and the air is cool. Even the scent of the air is the same as it was when I was a teen and walkedbird-feeder through the leaves on my way home from school. There is something magical about this time of year when people and animals begin to prepare for the winter. The birds and the squirrels in my back yard are gathering the seed and corn I leave out for them. It is a joy to watch them play and chase each other in the trees and on the fence.

corn-cobsBut this season finds me with a new practice. As I shared in my last post, I needed to have a lymph node dissection to assure that I was “clean and clear” of cancer. The removal of 4 lymph node pods totaling 26 lymph nodes can bring changes to the body and to the way a person cares for themselves on a regular daily bases. Two hours have been added to my day. Well, not literally but, I now have to plan for two hours of extra care in the morning for my lymphatic system. I have been taught via physical therapy, how to give myself daily lymphatic drainage massages so that the lymphatic fluid in my abdomen, groin and thighs does not collect and stagnate, but is moved towards the heart. If you are interested, there is many You Tube videos on how to do this. Click HERE to view. It came with an article that is interesting as well. There are also exercises I need to do after I awake, and before the massage, to prepare the different areas of the lymphatic system to receive the fluid. I now wear workout leggings throughout the day to help compress the thighs and abdomen; therefore preventing the buildup of fluid. Soon, I will also be sporting specially made compression wear for those days when the lymphatic system needs extra care which includes being above 2000 feet, including flying or just hiking in the mountains. It is worn under my regular clothes and I may need it more or less as I learn how my body reacts to returning to work in nine days.

The swelling of my lymphatic regions of the abdomen, groin and thighs started about one week after the surgery when I started to get a little more active with my walking. Walking512px-lymph_node_regions-svg is also very important for healing, so this was something we needed to jump on right away. My doctor immediately put in a referral for me to receive physical therapy and my insurance will cover the specially made garments for which I was measured for just this week. I have mixed feelings about them as I have not been one to wear tight fitting clothes, much less two layers of clothes on top of increased hot flashes since the hysterectomy back in August. Can you just visualize me ripping off my clothes in public as I get warm!!! But, in all seriousness, I am so very grateful for this to be the only treatment  and this is because we caught the lymphedema at its onset and I am responding well to my new practice of physical therapy. The picture to the right is from Wikipedia. The lymph nodes that were removed from my body were in the Paraaortic area.

I already mentioned walking, but what is also very important is muscle work. I have started slow, using three, four, and five pound weights for my arms. For my legs, I do slow and gentle squats and calf extensions on yoga blocks. The re-building of my muscles will assist the lymphatic system to drain better. Different lymph nodes throughout our bodies help drain different sections of our bodies. So, when there has been a reduction of lymph nodes, the area that they used to support becomes taxed and thus, needs extra assistance.

“The lymphatic system is a network of specialized vessels (lymph vessels) throughout the body whose purpose is to collect excess lymph fluid with proteins, lipids, and waste products from the tissues. This fluid is then carried to the lymph nodes, which filter waste products and contain infection-fighting cells called lymphocytes. The excess fluid in the lymph vessels is eventually returned to the bloodstream. When the lymph vessels are blocked or unable to carry lymph fluid away from the tissues, localized swelling (lymphedema) is the result.” From What is Lymphedema

There are other things that can help or hinder lymphatic drainage. Below is a list that Kaiser Permanente gave me.

Tips to help the lymphatic system for the lower body:

  • Avoid high heel shoes or shoes that are too tight.
  • Avoid clothing with tight ankle bands or any clothes that bind.
  • Do light to moderate exercises on a daily basis but don’t overdo it i.e. straining or forcing.
  • Walking is excellent as is swimming which doesn’t stress the joints.
  • Avoid standing for long period of times and when sitting, do not cross the legs.
  • Elevate the legs for a few minutes a few times a day and again at night. This helps drain the excess fluid.
  • Keep the body adequately hydrated with water.
  • Avoid hot tubs and saunas and excessively hot baths or showers.
  • Watch the salt intake as that can help the body retain water.
  • Be careful not to get over heated.
  • Be very cautious in hot climates.
  • Keep the weight down. Obesity increases the chances of lymphedema and makes it harder to manage
  • Do not allow injections, blood to be drawn, or IV’s to be given to the legs.
  • Keep the legs moisturized to prevent chapping.
  • Protect yourself from sunburn.
  • Care for your feet especially when trimming your toe nails as not to cut yourself.
  • Keep cuticles soft with cream.
  • Treat all skin openings with antibiotic ointment such as Bacitracin, Polysporin, or Kaiser’s double antibiotic. DO NOT USE Neosporin or any ointment that contains neomycin.
  • Recognize the signs of infection as there is a decreased immune response. These can be red streaks, warmth, tenderness and increased swelling.

So as you can see, this new practice has a bit more to it. Maybe you can see why I questioned having the second surgery as I shared in my last post. There were considerations and risks to be weighed.

It is a spiritual practice for me to walk this new journey. Just as I cared for myself before dooley-quotethe surgeries with meditation, visualization, positive affirming beliefs, and good eating habits, I now continue in that same mode; seeing my lymphatic system functioning with ease and harmoniously working with my entire body. Visualizing is very powerful and just five minutes a day with my eyes closed and seeing my body functioning and seeing my cells and membranes working at the highest level for my good creates the shift. This is why my health care professionals, friends and family comment that I look and act so good for what I have been through. It takes daily work of mind, body and spirit to get through any sort of health challenge.

If anyone reading this is going through something similar and has questions about what I have done and gone through, please feel free to contact me by commenting on this post. I would gladly share with you to help you with anything you now have to navigate through.

Big Choices: A Second Surgery

The day after I published my last blog post, I did what many folks do two weeks after a surgery… I went to my post-op appointment. I was pretty excited as I was doing well, walking better, continuing on my path of healthy eating and based on the findings during my surgery in late August, I was feeling hopeful and confident. I did have questions for the doctor about strange changes occurring in my body and what I learned was I was going through normal post hysterectomy fluctuations. What I was not ready to hear was that the doctor said I needed to have a second surgery. Second! What? What I then heard was that only so much pathology can be achieved during surgery. Post-surgery pathology is very aortic-lymph-nodesthorough and takes the organs that were removed and dissects them to review every millimeter. The first thing they found was what we expected, a very small non aggressive cancerous tumor, in my endometrial lining, that only invaded the wall of my uterus by 2mm. But, they also found some cancer cells in another portion of my uterus wall that invaded the lymphatic highways which travel to the lymph nodes. Therefore, the doctor wanted to make sure the cancer cells had not spread to the lymph nodes and this required a lymph node dissection of the paraaortic lymph nodes in the lumbar region. These are the sentinel lymph nodes; those that if the cancer had spread, it would show up here. Picture above is from Wikipedia.

Now, based on my age, the early detection of the cancer, the fact that it was not an aggressive type, as well as the small size of the tumor, I had really good numbers. I had an 89% chance that nothing traveled to any lymph nodes. But, the 11% risk, that remained, 11-percentwas just over twice the amount of the standard risk and therefore, a lymph node dissection was needed. I was shocked as was my partner. I said that I needed to think about this. I had concerns. I would be on disability for another 6 weeks and thus, recovering again. A second surgery came with another set of risks from having to remove lymph nodes and what I would later learn about, lymphedema and physical therapy.

The doctor and his staff understood my reeling thoughts and even my anger, but they were also solid in their beliefs of needing to know it had not spread even if it was only an 11% chance. They asked me to get back to them the following week with my decision. In that following week, I went back and forth with my thoughts. I talked to a couple of friends who have had cancer and what they thought about me choosing not to go through with the lymph node dissection. Their reply…. DO IT. The top reason was, if cancer had not spread, I will have a piece of mind that would not be experienced otherwise. The second reason is that, since this detection was so early, the amount of treatment would be less and I would be able to nip this in the bud sooner than later. I also discussed this with other cancer survivors and thus, I chose to go through with the second surgery.

second-surgery-prepOn October 5th, I had my second surgery. It took just under three hours. I went into it with the intention that nothing would be found. For 3 weeks before the surgery, I meditated to be calmer and to visualize me coming out of the surgery clean and clear. I continued to take the various herbs and supplements I learned would be helpful for my immune system and of course I had to stop taking them a week before surgery as many of them thinned the blood. This second surgery was harder on my body. It was the same type as before, a laparoscopic / robotic surgery reusing the 5 incisions from the hysterectomy. But, since I still had not recovered completely from the first in regards to the anesthesia and because they had to move around my intestines to get to the lymph nodes, recovery has been harder. I don’t have the same energy at the two week mark as I did after my first surgery.

On October 11th, my partner drove me back to Kaiser in San Francisco to learn the results of the post-surgery pathology report. When the first doctor came in, I said I had some new questions about things that were happening in my body and I would share them as soon as I heard about my “good news.” She replied back “you do have good news!” and she handed the pathology report to my partner as she began to examine my incisions. No cancer was found!!! Woooo Hooo! And there was that relief that comes with being told I was clean and clear. Had cancer cells been found, treatment of chemotherapy and radiation would be the next step. I am very, very grateful for knowing that we caught this very early and very grateful for my OB/GYN, Dr. Judith Hennessey of Kaiser, San Rafael, CA for knowing the early signs and encouraging me to have the uterine biopsy.

Through physical therapy, I am learning how to give myself lymphatic drainage massageslymph_system_solaris_1200_wide every morning to help my body absorb the lymphatic fluid from the torso and thighs which was building up due to the loss of a couple dozen lymph nodes. I am also learning exercises to do every day that helps the body move the fluid better. I am learning that I need to be patient with myself. I need more rest and especially after taking a walk. I am learning to go with the flow as sitting and lying down for long periods of time are not comfortable. Walking every few hours, even short little treks out to the yard, are needed. My short term memory will get better with time. It can take up to 6 months for anesthesia to dissipate from just one surgery. So to help with this, I am reading and writing to stretch the brain muscles and I am continuing to eat what is needed to stay healthy and boost my immune system for mind and body. Image above can be found at this website.

In the bigger picture, my friends, family, and health care providers are saying that I lookhealth-breakfast good and that I am doing well for all I have been through. I truly believe that since I was caring for myself with health, organic foods and supplements before both of these surgeries, I really gave myself an upper edge in my recovery. They can’t tell I am just two weeks out of my second surgery by looking at me. Inside I feel it though and I know what it takes for me to perform normal tasks. Yet, the comments are good to hear and they let me know I am on a good path.

beef-bone-broth-jarsSo…here I am, on my continued journey to health and healing and what I want to say to anyone, no matter what you are healing from, whether mind, body or spirit, is to eat healthy!  Stay away from processed foods. Eat those dark green veggies. Eat foods that reduced inflammation in the body. Drink bone broth and water and walk every day!!! Don’t think you can go without taking good care of yourself. Comfort yourself with things that benefit the body and what builds up your immune system. Most diseases of mind and body are preventable and we usually don’t know it until it is in our face. We all have the power of choice and we can choose to do the nurturing, preventative thing for ourselves… for our lives.