Living with Lymphoedema

LIVING WITH LYMPHOEDEMA
by Lynne Harness

In the United Kingdom, March 2nd-6th is lymphoedema awareness week.  This prompted  me to share my own story of living with lymphoedema.

Lymphoedema is a visible swelling that develops because there is a problem with the lymph drainage system. The lymph system is no longer able to drain away all the fluid and waste products that have built up in the tissues. The swelling that develops when the lymph system cannot work properly is not just made up of fluid, but also contains material such as fat cells. In time the skin can lose its soft feeling and become hard due to fibrous changes, or rubbery because of the build up of fat cells. The swelling is usually in an arm or leg but can affect more than one part of the body.

I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006. Lymph nodes were removed during surgery and I also received radiotherapy. Both treatments can cause lymphoedema, which I developed soon after.

I visit the specialist lymphoedema nurse annually now for review and measurements, and I am pleased to report that at present I appear to be managing my condition effectively.

I find that the slightest weight gain can impact on my lymphoedema  and I need to keep my weight down. My running and walking helps with this. I also choose loose sleeved clothing that is comfortable and not constrictive.

Every 4 weeks a physiotherapy aid who has had specialist training in the technique visits me at home and I have manual lymphatic drainage. This is a massage which moves the lymph out of the swollen areas into parts of the body where it can channel away normally.

I wear a compression sleeve and glove on my left arm and hand, this applies pressure to the skin and provides support to reduce swelling. These compression garments improve the effect of exercise by helping the muscles massage fluid out through the existing lymphatic vessels.

Cellulitis is an infection caused by bacteria that affects the skin and the tissues beneath it. The immune system in the swollen part of the body is not working as well, and cannot fight the infection. Cellulitis is often one of the main reasons why lymphoedema develops or gets worse, and so good skin care is important. This includes daily moisturising, not getting sunburn, protecting the skin from thorns and scratches when gardening, and cleaning and treating any stings, bites, burns or cuts promptly.

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My lymphoedema is also affected by long haul air journeys and I need to wear my compression garments, and elevate my arm when travelling.

If any other Moon Joggers are affected by lymphoedema, I would be pleased to hear from you.

My name is Lynne Harness and I am 54 years of age. I live in the beautiful county of Yorkshire in England. I am a granny-nanny to my four grand-children and provide childcare when their parents work. I grew up in a family where there was always a pet dog so I have always enjoyed walking and the outdoors. I have been running regularly since I was in my 20s

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