After two years of swollen legs and feet, a radiation ulcer on my leg, and lots of pain, I was finally diagnosed with Stage 4 Lymphedema 4 weeks ago. After seeing many doctors, a physician’s assistant recognized the symptoms and sent me to an occupational therapist who is also a certified Lymphedema therapist. She told me I needed to come in daily for a lymphatic drainage massage and to have my legs wrapped. This was going to be difficult for me since the pain made getting in and out of the car hard to do. She asked me if I was open to having a home health care therapist come to me instead, and I jumped at the chance.
I now have a therapist who visits twice a week to give me a massage and put on compression wraps instead of special bandage wrapping. The kind of wraps I use are Juzo Lycra Wraps that attach with velcro tabs. The ones on my lower legs go over a stockinette liner. And I have a separate piece that goes over my feet. I start with a massage by my therapist or a shorter version I do for myself, put lotion on both legs and feet and then add the wraps. I also elevate my legs and feet, which I do in my zero-gravity recliner. I do this while I watch TV or sleep. Another form of treatment that I do is using air compression pump boots, which feels great.
For two years, I suffered from this swelling and pain, plus fluid drainage that came out of the ulcer, which I thought would never heal, and out of breakout sores on my foot, ankle, and shins, and we couldn’t figure out why. It turns out it was lymph fluid pooling in my feet instead of circulating the way it should. It took the path of least resistance, which was out of my leg anyway it could.
The massage and elevation were forcing the fluid to work as it was meant, and now the radiation ulcer is finally healing. And the pain has decreased drastically. I couldn’t believe that all it took were techniques that were so easy and non-invasive. With all of that stretched swollen skin, losing the fluid from my feet and legs left me with dried, wrinkled skin, but at least they were not swollen and painful. But now the dried skin is peeling off by using the lotion, and the wrinkles are disappearing, the elasticity is returning.
I wish I had learned about this two years ago, but I’ve been told that most doctors don’t know much about Lymphedema, so they don’t diagnose it. I was lucky to have someone recognize it. Instead, I had doctors tell me it was because I needed to lose weight or eat a low salt diet. I did both, and neither did anything about the swelling.
There is no cure for Lymphedema, so I continue doing the massages, compression, and elevation. There are many reasons why people develop this disease. It’s prevalent for women who have had surgery or radiation for breast cancer. I had Lymphoma with a tumor on the back of my leg, which required both radiation and chemotherapy. But it can also be caused by an injury or rheumatoid arthritis. I had both.
Dispelling the widespread myths behind lymphatic drainage massage, and who should actually get one
“Lymphatic drainage massage is a type of massage that can help reduce swelling in individuals with excess fluid buildup after surgery, illness, or injury.
Outside of its medical use, the procedure has gained popularity due to claims it can also help improve your appearance, but there is little evidence beyond anecdotal to support these claims.
The lymphatic system is part of the immune system and includes a network of tissues and organs that helps remove waste, toxins, and bacteria or viruses from the body.
It’s also responsible for transporting white blood cells in a fluid called lymph to areas of the body that are fighting infection.
However, when you have a blockage, infection, or disease, it can hinder the lymphatic system’s ability to transport lymph. As a result, the lymph fluid can accumulate and cause swelling.
Lymph build-up can also increase the risk of infection, skin damage, and wounds. That’s when it’s time to drain the lymph via lymphatic drainage massage, which can improve your lymphatic system’s function.”
SENATORS REINTRODUCE LYMPHEDEMA LEGISLATION
WASHINGTON – Sens. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, have reintroduced the Lymphedema Treatment Act with 52 co-sponsors.
The bill, S. 1315, would require Medicare to pay for compression garments, bandages and supplies to reduce lymphedema-related swelling and prevent recurrence.
Similar bills have been introduced in both the Senate and the House of Representatives in previous sessions of Congress. S. 518, introduced in 2019, garnered 71 co-sponsors while its companion bill, H.R. 1948 garnered 386 co-sponsors.
The Lymphedema Advocacy Group is asking its members to thank their senators for taking the first step.
“Now we need them to get our bill through the Senate and signed into law,” said Heather Ferguson, founder and executive director. “Your thank-you calls will not only show your appreciation, but also encourage and inspire them to take the next steps.”