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.