Supporting women whose lives have been touched by breast cancer

Living with Lymphoedema 2

By fr

I had put the idea of Lymphoedema to the back of my mind by 2006 2 yrs after dx. I discovered my arm was swollen when i tried to put on a blouse I had worn the previous week to work and the sleeve wouldn't fit.

I was seeing my BC surgeon the following week so I mentioned it to him and he referred me to the Lymphoedema clinic which was based at the local hospice.

There were 2 full time nurses there and I was measured and fitted with an arm sleeve and given exercises to do. I was told that mine was quite mild as I had caught it early and that I needed to wear my sleeve most of the time to keep it like that.

I wore the sleeve every day but found it seemed to be getting worse and ended up with a bigger size. My nurse believed that my job (working in an office using a computer) was aggravating the condition. Apparently not everyone has a problem with computers and because my problem is mainly the area above the elbow it is easily aggravated.

I ended up applying for ill health retirement and the clinic did a measurement of my arm at 08.00am on my way to work and then at the end of the day and did me a letter confirming that if I continued in my job my condition would continue to worsen.

I retired in Oct 2007 and hoped that I woud not need to wear the sleeve every day. However it is incredibley difficult to manage without aggravating my arm.

My list :

  • I wear a compression sleeve everyday
  • I no longer have job
  • I have to choose sleeves on garments carefully
  • I have never sunbathed or sat in the sun but do suffer in warm weather as the arm swells up
  • I no longer knit or sew
  • I can't carry much shopping because i have to use my left arm which has been weak since I broke the elbow at age 5
  • I rarely do a long post on here because typing is a problem. I do try with just the left hand but it takes forever.
  • simple things like slicing things peeling and cutting veg or stirring and mixing cause problems which makes meal preparation a problem.
  • I keep trying to teach myself to use my left arm but it isn't strong enough to use the vacuum cleaner and while i dust and clean with it
  • I often have accidents because it feels so awkward.
  • I have had my hair cut short in a wash and leave style because i can't manage blow drying and styling anymore.
  • I have to be careful of cuts or of knocking my arm

I am lucky that there is a clinic locally but I am aware that this is not the case everywhere. I do think awareness needs to be raised so that sufferers can get the help they need.