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 walked 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.
But 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. Walking 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 the 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.