Today I diagnosed myself with lymphedema. Yes, self-diagnosed because I couldn’t find anyone else to do so.
About two weeks ago, I started having pain in my shoulder, which eventually traveled down my arm. I attributed this to a knot in my back muscles which pushed on nerves creating the pain (not an unusual occurrence for me over the years). I started to notice, however, an accumulation of fluid under my armpit — so much so, that my arm and side were rubbing together, creating an irritation. Eventually, I started noticing some swelling in my fingers, along little red splotches on my hands. It took me a few days, but it finally clicked that this could be an early stage, mild lymphedema.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with this, lymphedema, “also known as lymphatic obstruction, is a condition of localized fluid retention and tissue swelling caused by a compromised lymphatic system.” (per Wikipedia) It often occurs in women who, like me, have had breast cancer with dissection/removal of lymph nodes. My oncologist assured me that I did not need to worry about this, since I only had two nodes removed. But I knew this was still a risk because of the wonderful world of blogging. I have read first-hand accounts to the contrary.
Anyway, I called my oncologist this morning and learned that she was in meetings all day, and her PA was totally booked. It was suggested that I call my primary care doctor, who I knew would be of little help. I pursued an appointment with someone to validate my self-diagnosis. Apparently my description of the symptoms was sufficient enough for them, because they sent me for a Doppler venous ultrasound. This was, I believe, intended to rule out blood clotting / vein obstruction as the cause of the swelling. That test proved negative, as expected. Next step: Off to a lymphedema clinic. (Maybe it’s me, but I guess I was thinking someone more qualified would actually want to look at my symptoms…)
Since I am travelling for work for a few days, I won’t be able to go until Wednesday at the earliest. For now, I’m trying to manage the pain, rest my arm, and pray that it stays mild and they are able to help me effectively manage this. What a pain!
For my lymphedema friends in the blogosphere, any suggestions….?
No recipes today, but I do want to thank my mom for the homemade (sugar-free) applesauce. Delicious!!!
Major Payne (1995) – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0110443/