Summertime and Lymphedema: June 7 , 2012

Breast cancer survivor Carol Thisted is now living with lymphedema. Commonly a consequence of lymph node removal, she has extreme, painful swelling in her arms.

“It was the lymph nodes that were taken from underneath my arm, were not letting this fluid move through my body anymore,” says Thisted.

Lymphedema is a chronic condition with no cure. The treatment is to wear compression garments and wraps to encourage circulation.

“When we treat lymphedema we train people how to control it themselves so they know how to do all their self-care,” says Jackie Speas, a certified lymphedema therapist with Lee Memorial Health System.

The condition is more challenging during the summer.

“Anything too hot or too cold will aggravate a lymphedema,” says Speas.

As the temperature rises, people may be less inclined to wear tight fitting body garments, but someone who is prone to swelling needs to keep it under wraps.

“I do have friends that went through therapy and then they just stopped. I can see the difference. They should be wearing their arm covers and they’re not,” says Thisted.

“If you just let it go it tends to progressively get worse. If you treat it, it gets better and then stays at a better stage,” says Speas.

So rain or shine Carol sticks with her routine.

“I wear this during the day and then at night I take this off and then I rewrap it and put the band aid bandaged on again. I would just assume do it so that I feel better.”

Any discomfort pales in comparison to letting her lymphedema bloom out of control.