Those of you who watch my Instagram stories, have seen that I’m back in Occupational Therapy over the last couple of weeks – I’d exhausted everything I knew to do and the fluid build-up wasn’t getting any better.
Lymphedema of the lower extremity isn’t really something people talk about – I get it, it’s not fun, especially in the pelvic region. I get asked why this happens to me, but not others – everyone is different, is the answer. The number of lymph nodes removed, the way your body manages getting the excess fluid to a different area of your body – it’s different for every case. Women with breast cancer experience this as well, you’ve probably seen more of them with compression sleeves and things of that nature for their arms and hands. For me, it’s the opposite, I need it for my legs, and unfortunately my groin/pelvic region (good times!)
What is Lymphedema – Lymphedema occurs when the lymphatic system is compromised – in my case, due to a debulking surgery for cancer related issues. For me, it became too uncomfortable and a little painful. Over time, the accumulation can actually result in significant changes to the tissue and skin around the area – I wanted to ensure I took care of this, before that happened. It is a permanent condition –something those of us effected by will live with for the rest of our lives – it is manageable though, which is why I try and stay on top of it. It’s one of those things they don’t tell you about, until it actually happens.
How do I manage my particular issue – It’s fairly easy, just time consuming at this point in time. I have a FlexiTouch device which helps in getting the fluid out of my legs – it isn’t as helpful with the pelvic/groin area for me, because I’m a little too thin for the trunk piece – this takes 2 hours out of the day, one in the morning and one at night. Throughout the day I wear 30-40mhg compression tights, a swell spot (THIS IS A LIFESAVER – if you have pelvic/groin area swelling – TRY it!!), and I have a pair of 20-30mhg custom (again, too thin) compression capris I will start to wear for hiking and days when I’ll be standing for extended periods of time or traveling.
There is a manual technique I use as well help get the fluid to the lymph nodes under my arm, the next largest set, outside of those I’m now missing.
Exercise is important – I know, I know, here she goes again! This has been proven to help with the lymphatic drainage – the muscles and joints work together during some workouts, creating pressure, which allows the fluid to move into the lyphatic system. The yoga, spinning and walking I do, religiously, is for this very reason. Start with something small and see if you notice a change, I think you’ll be surprised, I know I was.
You’ll find that if you’re with me, I don’t really care where I am and how rude it may look, my legs go up. People will need to get over it! LOL! If you have any other questions regarding any of this – give me a shout!