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Lymphing Along - Is there anything funny about lymphedema?

Lymphing Along - Is there anything funny about lymphedema?

I was going to devote my column this month to a discussion of just how hopeless I am when it comes to remembering to be careful about lymphedema. I need to find a way not to overtax my poor arms and risk it. To my surprise, I was hard pressed (get it?) to find anything that didn’t feel insensitive or at the very least, insincere.

Perhaps I should be grateful that other things caught my attention, because quite honestly, I wasn’t finding much that made me chuckle. In fact, it wasn’t until my recent double mastectomy that I’d even had serious reason to look at just how invasive, disruptive and plain horrific this condition can be. Recent news has brought it to my attention that many women dealing with lymphedema are poorly served in terms of being able to get treatment and/or financial assistance for massage, compression garments, etc.

It was heartening to discover there is actually legislation (the Lymphedema Treatment Act) in place to help remedy this dilemma. If you haven’t already familiarized yourself, you can learn more here.

While I was still contemplating sharing something zany, funny, or at the very least, uplifting about lymphedema, I stumbled upon several blogs dealing with just this subject, although  many of them are written by individuals  suffering from lymphedema of the leg or torso and not the arm. This was just one more “wake up” moment for me; since my reality has been breast cancer, my focus has always been on my arms.

Well, actually that isn’t quite accurate either. When I used to have boobs I was sometimes plagued by a sort of flu-like feeling every now and then that was accompanied by tenderness in my back and affected breast. It wasn’t until years after my initial lumpectomy that I mentioned this oddity to a nurse, and she said it was probably lymphedema. Who knew? I’m thinking I should have!

And here’s the funny thing (maybe not ha-ha but definitely funny): Unless you happen to have a progressive healthcare team working with you, I’m wondering how many women are ever told they might develop lymphedema in an area other than their arms.

So, what did make me smile this month? Well for one, I just read that bold plaids are making a comeback this fall. As a school girl I loved my tartan plaid box-pleated skirts with knee socks and a matching sweater. I think I had one in nearly every clan-configuration you can imagine. I was 14, lithe and able to pull off the look without a problem. At this age, when I contemplate wearing a vivid plaid, I have that moment of clarity where I hear the voice in my head saying, “Step away from the plaid!” Actually, I’m thinking if I were to wear plaid I just might hear someone say, “Step away from the couch!” Ouch!

While I couldn’t really find anything humorous to share about lymphedema, all is not lost. As a woman who is now breast-less, I was definitely amused to discover that it couldn’t have happened at a better time, because right now, we are all being told on the pop charts: It’s All About the Bass! 

And here’s what I love about “the bottom line” of that song: Every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top!