Supporting women whose lives have been touched by breast cancer

Living with Lymphoedema 3

By ply

I have lymphoedema in my arm and back/ underarm tissue. I wear a sleeve at all times other than in the bath and bed.

Without my sleeve the condition becomes much worse. I also wear a compression vest when it is not too hot. This is a tight elastic job a bit like a longline bra with loads of tiny hooks down the front. In hot weather it is impossible to wear as it causes me to sweat so much and my lympho nurse is unable to prescribe a more comfortable garment.

Lymphoedema means I am unable to lift my large heavy arm higher than my shoulder, I have great difficulty buying clothes that accomodate my arm and cater for it swelling during the day. I have on more than one occassion had to have my husband cut me out of a blouse as after a days wear it was impossible to remove.

I do not enjoy the summer as I used to for 2 reasons, the weather makes my lymphoedema worse and summer clothes are always such a problem, I end up buying clothes about 3 sizes too big and always feel ugly and unfeminine. This is due to lymphoedema not having one breast.

I developed lymphoedema about 6 months after my mastectomy and full axillary clearance. It became much worse following a mosquito bite, through my sleeve, 2 years later. This caused a severe infection and many types of antibiotics.

I try to live as normal a life as I can but am unable to lift things including my grandchildren out of the bath and whatever. I am unable to sleep on my left side and miss this. My arm is so heavy it causes tendonitis in my shoulder and the pain is hard to control. I had to take medical retirment from my job of 32 years as a teacher as it was impossible to continue working with the restricted movement I have.

I find getting in and out of the bath difficult as I have little strength or feeling in my arm due to the swelling pressing on my medial nerves I have hand rails fitted and have have some special kitchen equipment provided by my occupational therapist.

Lymphoedema is a small price to pay for life but it is still a very disabling condition. I am fortunate not to have secondaries after being given a very poor prognosis and do realise that despite my problems I could be so much worse off but it still has an impact on all parts of my life.