I hadn’t even started my chemo or radiation treatments and I was furiously, “Googling, ” looking for as much information as I could about ways to mitigate lymphedema, (LE) I freaked myself out looking at images of unfortunate people whose arms or legs were grossly swollen from the condition as well as taut, cracked, dis-coloured skin. People described heaviness, pain and discomfort which caused them to be depressed and afraid to go out, embarrassed by how they looked. This just fueled my fear. I should have known better. I had gotten anxious, ”Googling” myself into oblivion when I first got my cancer diagnosis. You would think I had learned my lesson. In retrospect I was probably in a bit of shock. I had only weeks before had surgery and was now waiting for my consultation with the oncologist at the Cancer Clinic where he would outline the plan for my chemo and radiation sessions. I had a little puffiness in my chest wall and felt some swelling and numbness under my armpit. As well, I had discovered some “cording” through my armpit as well as under my ribs, a fairly common occurrence after axillary node clearance. This is caused by fibrosis of the lymph vessels and looks like little ropes. Cording can be quite uncomfortable and really limits one’s mobility. I was having trouble lifting my arm over my head and do my post surgery exercises. I was convinced that I was going to get LE; the cording also a possible risk factor. I knew, through my research that I needed to see a registered massage therapist to treat this.
Soon, I would discover through my research that there are health professionals such as registered massage therapists, doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, etc., with training and expertise in the management of lymphedema. Their additional training is attained through several private lymphedema education schools in North America who meet the educational requirements of the Lymphology Association of North America (LANA). Certification allows lymphedema patients to find therapists who have had at least 135 hours of training through a qualified school. Therapists can apply for their Certified Lymphedema Therapist (CLT) with a year of practise following their training.
Academy of Lymphatic Studies www.acols.com
Courses in Manual Lymph Drainage and Complete Decongestive Therapy
Klose Training and Consulting www.klosetraining.com
Online and classroom lymphedema education
Norton School of Lymphatic Therapy www.nortonschool.com
Lymphedema Therapy certification courses and workshops
Vodder School International www.vodderschool.com
Professional training in manual lymph drainage and combined decongestive therapy
I checked out the sites and found a Registered Massage Therapist who had her CLT and training from the Vodder School and made an appointment. This began my journey of discovery. I would soon learn that lymphedema is a manageable condition and that there are many things I could do to mitigate my risks of getting it.