As part of my mastectomy surgery I had sentinel lymph nodes removed. If cancer has spread, it has most likely moved into the underarm lymph nodes first. Lymph is a thin, clear fluid that circulates throughout the body to remove wastes, bacteria and other substances from tissues. Lymphedema is the build up of fluids in the breast, underarm, chest and/or back.
Yesterday I woke with such a tightness in my chest and arm I could barely breathe. I have a lump under my left arm the size of a grapefruit. The swelling starts in my chest and moves around under my arm and to approximately six inches around my back.
I thought I was doing well. I was feeling a bit stronger everyday and I was gaining more and more movement in my arms. Waking up with all this added swelling feels like yet another insult to my body. Lymphedema can worsen and cause severe swelling and permanent change to the tissues under the skin like thickening and scarring.
On every site I’ve read it says that “there is no cure for lymphedema and must be seen as a chronic problem.” All I can do is keep my arms propped up, keep my arms moving and hope for the best. If it worsens I may have to wear compression bandages and seek out an expert in MLD (manual lymphatic drainage). MLD is a gentle skin massage that uses light touch to help move excess lymph and fluid out of the tissues and back into the lymphatic vessels.
I have an appointment with my surgical oncologist Wednesday so I will have to see what she recommends. Unfortunately the lymphedema can cause major scar tissue which will create problems with my reconstruction and recovery. It sucks. I was really starting to feel pretty good and now I am back to square one with no apparent light at the end of the tunnel….unless of course the light is a train coming at me which I would expect as I certainly feel like I’ve been run over one.
President of As You Like It Marketing & Communications Inc. Award winning speaker and author. Breast cancer fighter and blogger. I’m sharing my journey…the good, the bad and the ugly. Hoping to help anyone else that has been touched by breast cancer be it you or someone you know or love.