About this blog

I was diagnosed with breast cancer on June 11, 2010. As a result of my treatment, I have lymphedema in my left arm. I draw my strength from the Lord, as well as my family's Scots-Irish heritage. Our Graham's were a tough and scrappy bunch of fighters on the Scottish/English border. They came to America and continued to fight when necessary: in the American Revolution; the Civil War; and my brother is a Captain in the U.S. Army. My ancestors settled this country against all odds. My great-grandmothers on both sides of the family were pioneer women who settled the West. Along with that heritage, and the full armor of God, I am walking the walk and fighting the good fight.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Pushing water uphill

I feel like I am fighting a losing battle with my lymphedema arm.

I'll admit that over the summer, I slacked off. I would go for several days without bandaging. Sometimes I would even take a few days off of manual drainage massage. But when I noticed the swelling, I got back into a pretty good discipline of nightly massage and bandaging. On top of that, I've been wearing the compression sleeve and gauntlet most of the day.

I decided to order a custom fit sleeve that I could wear at night that just velcros on. The impetus for this was the upcoming 3 Day walk. I just don't want to be messing around with rolling and wrapping bandages after having walked 20 and 40 miles.  Since it was a custom fit, I got into my discipline a few weeks before I was to be measured for the sleeve. When I went in for the measurements, I was disappointed that while there were some changes, I was still "over" my limit at some measurement points.

Back in January, I had my physical therapist recommend ideal "maximum" measurements at each 5 c.m. point that we measure at. I also have been tracking my size since then, so I know what this arm is capable of. What I've seen is a slow creep upward.  This is despite working at it really hard over the past month. I've switched things up on some nights, adding foam in parts, or adding an extra layer of bandaging on the upper arm. But to no avail.

I pondered the situation. What was I doing differently that may cause the swelling?  I had started taking a Body pump class at the gym. It's a weightlifting class with lots and lots of repetitions. It's an hour long, and we would work different muscles for each song. Imagine-a 3-4 minute song of just bicep curls.  Or squats. Or chest presses.  You get the picture. Ouch. (But a good kind of ouch!) All while holding a weightlifting bar that we add or take off weight plates. I'll admit that I had increased the weight and was pushing my limit. Could walking long distances be causing it? I wear my sleeve, and even my bandaging sometimes, while walking.

I decided to take some time off of the Body pump to see if it made a difference. It didn't.

Friday, I get to pick up my custom sleeve. I'm excited to have something that is more convenient and faster, although my therapist believes that bandaging is more effective. Who knows? Maybe the change will confuse my arm and make it go down?

Its not physically painful. It's just an inconvenience and annoyance. Just another way that life will never be the same.  I think after the 3 Day I will make a series of appointments with my physical therapist for some intensive work on the arm.

I'd appreciate everyone's prayers about it. It is very frustrating to work so hard at something and not have it make a difference. On the other hand, imagine what my arm would be doing if I wasn't working so hard at it? Maybe I would be swollen up like a balloon?


  1. Tonya,
    I'm sorry you're having to deal with lymphedema. Cancer and all the ongoing fears and precautions are bad enough. I'm fanatical about my sleeve, wearing it when I do any activity like walking & weights, then afterwards, but I don't have a chronic lymphedema problem. It "wants" to be chronic, but isn't. I like the idea of "confusing" your arm:)

    Go get 'em, girl,

  2. I've been dealing with the ups and downs (literally) over the last 2 years...For me I've had 3 or 4 flare-ups. Summer heat and extra exercise seems to make it worse. Anyway.. For the walking... Have you tried trekking poles? (basically ski poles for walking) They have helped me move the fluid better while walking because it's a more natural movement than just holding that one arm bent & up all the time.

  3. It is frustrating to work so hard at something and then have it seem like it makes no difference. I bet if you hadn't been so diligent all this time, your arm might be worse, but as you said, who knows? That's the thing with this new life we lead. There are so many unknowns, frustrations, fears, anxieties and countless seen and unseen "battles" to face. We just keep plodding our way through don't we? I hope the new custom sleeve works out. Confusing your arm sounds like a good plan to me. Good luck!