Monday, 5 March 2018

Lymphoedema Awareness Week 2018 Day 2 ~ Jennie

"I've had another nine doses of cellulitis....."


Writing is not a strength, and what's more I bore myself when I talk about any of my medical stuff and so I apologise in advance.

I was diagnosed with stage 3 grade 3 breast cancer in March 2014. I had 3 operations to eventually remove a 10cm tumour, lymph nodes and left breast. I had chemotherapy, with an episode of sepsis, and radiotherapy ending December that year.

I began January 2015 feeling as though I'd been through hell. I had ongoing tests as the oncologist was concerned about a small lump identified on my liver, but hoped I could try and get back to some kind of normality. I can remember the sweats, breathlessness and lethargy as I attempted to push what was left of my poisoned body too fast, too soon.

Although I did the exercises and massage recommended by the breast team, the first sign of lymphoedema came just before my second operation when the hospital had to cut off my wedding and engagement rings because my hand was swelling. Then in January 2015, after chopping wood my hand and arm swelled up. I began wearing a sleeve shortly after my first dose of cellulitis came in July 2015 - this was after wearing a wet suit and getting in the sea the first time since diagnosis - the lymphoedema nurses thought it might have been caused by a jelly fish sting!

I've had another nine doses of cellulitis since then. Each time I've needed to take at least 2 weeks of antibiotics to stop the infection spreading. To say I'm sick of taking the tablets, and trying to take care of my arm would be an understatement.

Unfortunately the lymphatic system in my arm has been damaged too much by cancer treatment and isn't a good enough quality for them to perform the pilot operation to link it up with blood vessels.

Things that help me include - Sue (from a local cancer charity) who gives me some amazing lymph drainage massage. She has also on occasion applied kinesiology tape and bandaged me up. Also, the lymphoedema nurses at the hospital who gave me 6 sessions using the lymphosist machine which took away some of the swelling.

I am still trying to accept the long term nature of this condition. I find it a constant reminder of having had cancer. I probably feel I manage better in the winter than summer. In the warmer months, wearing less clothing, my arm is more exposed, which often leads to being repeatedly asked what I've done to my arm. So far I've found my son's suggestion as to a response for the reason I wear a sleeve the best - "a shark bite".

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