'Mild lymphoedema can be kept under control with massage'.
Read Rachel's story, the third post in our #ResilienceinLymphoedema series, and find out how she managed swelling that developed following an infected insect bite:
I'm Rachel and I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012. I was aware of the risks of lymphoedema after a talk from the physio after my surgery. We were told never to lift anything heavier than 5kg ever again, not to carry shopping in that arm, not to use jacuzzi, sauna or steam room, not to have massage on that quadrant of my body. I came out of the talk feeling very depressed, all those pampering treats which made me feel good were now off limits.
But after talking to other people, I came to see what I could do and found ways that I could still treat myself and all was going well.
Then 4 years after my surgery I got an insect bite on my affected arm while on holiday in Italy. It reacted badly. Luckily my GP knew that I have reacted badly before so I was prepared with antihistamine and antibiotics. My implant reconstruction was becoming pink and swollen but the antibiotics kicked in quickly and it settled down. But I was left with swelling in my breast. It took a while to be taken seriously as my breast care nurse said it looked fine, but eventually my surgeon agreed to refer me to the lymphoedema physio. She immediately agreed that there was lymphoedema in my breast, where fluid was trapped by scar tissue but also identified it in my arm. I hadn't noticed as my dominant arm is slightly bigger anyway. I was lucky that after the first session of being shown the correct technique and direction for me, the fluid moved and lymphoedema went down. I know I've been very fortunate that it hasn't caused a long term problem. I know my arm and breast are at risk and keep doing the massage.
My message is, if you are worried ask for a referral, don't be fobbed off. Trust your instincts as you know your body best. Mild lymphoedema can be kept under control with massage.