Welcome! Read Me!

This blog is created to give you a central location to answer any questions you have about my current and upcoming treatments and reactions. It is also created to help me make Lemonade out of the Lemons I have been given, so I will keep this as positive as I can.







Tuesday, January 31, 2012

ARM-Ageddon


***This post includes MTATM: Medical Terminology According To Melanie. I am not a Doctor and this is not intended to replace any advice from your Doctor***
When I was first told that I would need Lymph node removal I will be honest... I had little to no idea what the heck that even meant. What is a Lymph node? Why does it matter? What is the big deal? It is actually a lot more important that I ever imagined. It is basically what keeps up your immune system. It carries your White Blood Cells and brings all the "stuff" that shouldn't be there to the Lymph node to make your antibodies. So that is why when you start getting a cold or strep then your lymph nodes right under your jaw swell up... they are working overtime. (Yes, I am 34 and I just barely learned that those are Lymph nodes, I have always just called them "glands" but it all make sense to me now) So the average person has anywhere from 20-30 Lymph nodes in and around their arm-pit. Since I had 13 removed I am around half power. So if I injure my hand or arm or if I over work it so then it has a lot of work to do in order to get the fluid up my arm to drain and it has to "wait in a long line" to get through the node and get an antibody. So since it is not getting through fast enough then it just builds up in my arm. Kinda like a traffic jam on the freeway. If you have a road that usually has 4-5 lanes open in rush hour then you make 2-3 of those close because of an accident or construction then everything gets all congested. Same thing with your Lymph System.

Well after a while I started feeling some serious tightness and soreness in my hand and arm and it felt like it was swelling and at some times I felt like my skin and muscles would burst. Well I finally broke down and made an appointment with a Lymphedema specialist. That was the best thing I ever did. I initially thought that it would be a quick appointment of looking and making sure that what I was feeling was actually Lymphedema and then giving me a Rx for a compression sleeve. I was so wrong! In case you are wondering what Lymphedema is here is the Dictionary.com definition:

lymph·e·de·ma

[lim-fi-dee-muh] noun Pathology .
the accumulation of lymph in soft tissue with accompanying swelling, often of the extremities: sometimes caused by inflammation, obstruction, or removal of lymph channels.
In any case, it was not shocking to me when she told me that I was going to need some therapy for this. But she was extremely happy that I was starting the therapy now while I am still Stage 1 Grade 1 and it is technically "reversible" In my first appointment she taught me how to do "Manual Lymph Drainage" It sounds scarier than it is. I essentially have to do a very light massage (since the lymph is just barely below the skin you don't have to press much in order to effect it) and clear out all of the lymph system that is just below my collar bone as well as down my side so that I can push the fluid to fully functioning nodes in my left arm-pit and in my groin so that it will drain more efficiently. After just one massage I felt so much better it was incredible! Now I have to do this each day to maintain this feeling, and I just got my Compression sleeve and gauntlet (half glove) to use while I am more active and at the end of the day when my hand and arm feels so tired and swollen.
I saw a blog post that has a video that kind of explains the process (except she is using a brush to do this, and I may go ahead and adapt to this as well eventually) If you are interested you can check it out at: Skin Brushing. It seems like it could have benefits to anyone who may have a compromised immune system for whatever reason.  
So my battle with my arm has begun, and I like to think that I got enough of a head start on it that I am winning so far. I have seen some pretty nasty pictures of serious cases of Lymphedema and I definitely want to stay away from that. So far only a really close measurement would make my swelling noticeable most of the time.   

One more benefit to going to this specialist is that she is also in Physical Therapy and she is helping me get the movement back in my arm. I have a tendon "cord" that is over 10 cm long from my surgery and it limits my current range of motion and we have done 2 treatments and I have an exercise regime to help and I am definitely noticing the difference! It is wonderful. I knew it was not great, but even increasing the little bit that I have already is a fabulous thing.   
On another note: My body has essentially rejected my DIEP and I am "starting over" in March. So I will have a surgery to remove anything that is not "perfect" and then put back in the Expander's that I Loved so much before. Then once I can get healed from that I can have a more permanent implant put in then it will be Lypo then fat injections. Oh Goodie! But at least it is getting going. My Doc would schedule the surgery within the next 2 weeks, but I need to have time to make some schedule adjustments and get work off so I am pushing it back until I can get things set up and ready. It just means I have my weekly stitches until I go in, and I should totally be the person keeping Johnson & Johnson first aid products in business. But it is something that I can definitely deal with... It is just an inconvenience. At least I am not getting infections or having pain or other issues that could accompany this.