Tag Archives: Lymphedema

SoCS July 29, 2017

“Your Friday prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday is: ‘limb.’ Use it any way you’d like. Enjoy!” – Lind G. Hill

After my bio-chemotherapy, surgeries, and radiation for six months in 2009, it took care of the stage IV Melanoma cancer. A whole chunk of lymph nodes was removed to get rid of the shrunk tumors. It left me with no fluid circulation on my left leg. The fluid from the left leg goes up until it hits the wall in the left hip area with the missing lymph nodes that were supposed to circulate the fluid to my upper body. So the gravity draws to fluid back to my left leg.

The problem would be solved if I could walk upside down, or stay on the Inversion Table most of the day. There are routine exercises I do to promote the circulation, and massage to manually push the fluid to the upper body. Elevating my legs above the heart level would also be helpful. All these have to be done daily. If I get lazy for a few days, my left leg would get so puffy and get so much pressure that would keep me up all night long.

Hot weather doesn’t help at all. The previous week was so hot. The pressure of the fluid in my left leg actually burst through a tiny pore and kept dripping for half an hour.

I’m grateful for my survival of a stage IV cancer. The side effect I’m still suffering is nothing compared to a life I enjoy. The love life I have with my husband and the strong bonding with my daughter and son-in-law give me joy for my living. They are my motivation to live with the Strength from Above.

~

SoCS July 29, 2017 – Limb

Gratitude Moments #8

May 17, 2009

After the surgery removing the tumors in the lingual nodes on the left hip area, I rested for six weeks. The third cycle of bio-chemotherapy started on May 6th. I came home on Sunday, May 10th. Twelve pounds of fluid was put on me and I looked like a little red plum. The swelling was almost intolerable. The left leg was a lot bigger than my right leg. The fluid was not circulating to my upper body. At this point, the nurses said due to the removal of the lymph nodes, and the nerve damage from the surgery; the circulation problem could be permanent. I surely prayed that it would not be the case.

The case manager from my primary care hospital referred me to lymphedema therapy to treat the swelling. The therapist measured the circumference of my left leg in 3 inches increment, from the ankle to the upper thigh. Then measured and compared to my right leg. The measurement served as a baseline. Each returned visit, she would measure again to check the progress. She gave me handouts of home exercise with instructions and graphic demonstrations. The instruction was to do the exercise twice a day. The rest of the day, I was supposed to sit in a reclining position with my legs elevated to a position higher than my heart.

Even though I started eating regularly, I felt tired. The blood test showed that I was anemic severely. The doctor prescribed iron 325 mg plus vitamin C 500mg for two month.

June 15, 2009

I checked in to the hospital on Wed. June 3rd for my final cycle of bio-chemotherapy. Strangely I felt okay when I checked in, but a couple hours later, I had a fever of 103 degree.  My doctor put “on hold” of all the chemo medication. Even though the hydration had started, but it was suspended. To cover all the bases, he ordered chest x-ray, ultra sound of my heart, and blood culture, to make sure I didn’t have infection anywhere. If the fever was caused by infection, the chemo medication would further weaken my immune system to fight the infection.

The doctor waited until June 4th afternoon when he got the blood culture result, and then started the chemo medication. After 5 days of chemo, he kept me one more day for observation; that made the 5 days treatment into 7 days. The doctor ordered IV antibiotic for all the days I was in the hospital plus 5 days home health care after I was discharged. At the end of the antibiotic, a blood culture was done again. Eventually I understood the doctor’s caution, because the infection was a dangerous thing when my low immune system couldn’t fight it off.  I was so glad that it was my last cycle of chemo.

A couple side effects were accumulated to the worst point. One was the swelling of my left leg. By the 10th day after I came home; it was still very, very swollen. It felt like it was going to explode. The pressure made my walking or moving was very painful because the fluid was saturated. I finally called the doctor, and he prescribed water pill to make me urinate more often. It helped but worked slowly.  After two weeks, both whole legs were still swollen all the way to the ankles; at least the pain was subsided.

Another side effect was the skin peeling off in big pieces on my feet and hands. After the skin was peeled off, the new skin was tender, sensitive, and painful. How I wished it shed like snake skin and came off nice and neat in one piece. The peeling and recovering of my skin took several months. But again, this was the last cycle; I had all summer to recover.  I told my daughter that at least after all, I got brand new skin. She said she admired my strength and was a good example to her. It touched my heart when she said that. If I could be an example to my daughter of faith and trust in God, it was worth all the physical suffering.

The fluid slowly but surely left my body. I was down to 114 pounds. I started walking back and forth on the street. After a couple weeks, I was able to walk around Laguna Lake with my husband. I even went to the gym swimming and used the machine to work on my legs. I knew people were looking at me because I lost my hair and looked very skinny.

My daughter Mercy who lived and worked in Portland, Oregon said she would come to see me in the summer. By this time, I had lost most of my hair. I was afraid my appearance would shock her. I took pictures and sent them to her intermittently; the side view and back view of my head, so that she was aware of the changes.

My family and friends continued to pray, send cards, emails, and phone calls to provide support. Since my husband was back to school to get the MRI and CT licenses, he was not able to take me to all the appointments. My friends signed up to give me rides to different appointments. One friend was driving me to the doctor’s office. She said she wanted to make sure she had a chance to give me a ride before I didn’t need it anymore. My husband switched his internship schedule as often as he could to care for my needs. I was very weak physically, but my heart hugged all these people whose love for me was incredible.

P.S. I had one more surgery and radiation before the treatment was over.

Gratitude Moments #6

April 3, 2009

I was discharged from the surgery on March 22.  An appointment was made to visit the doctor in two weeks. During these two weeks, I recorded the amount of fluid collected from the drainage into the two bottles. One bottle was getting less and less fluid, but the one with the needle inserted to my left thigh had the same amount of fluid every day. The fluid just didn’t circulate to my upper body. The only outlet was through the drainage.

At the meantime, I had a lot of pain on my left abdomen and left leg. The numbness went from the upper left thigh to below the knee.

The doctor’s instruction was to lay flat and elevate the legs. By doing so, it would help to reduce the swelling. He also asked me to stay “active” as much as I could, so I did little things here and there and walked around the house to keep my left leg awake.

After getting up for an hour or so, my leg’s swelling increased. It was so bad that I couldn’t bend my knee. Our bedroom is upstairs. I wasn’t able to alternate my feet when going up and down. I could only make my right leg do all the work and dragged my straight left leg without bending. When I tried to sit and elevate both legs, only the right leg could move to the elevating position, the left leg needed to be lifted to the position.

During my doctor’s visit, one draining tube was removed. The other one remained because the draining was still active. Two more weeks later, the draining did not decrease, but the doctor removed the second tube anyway. His instruction was to massage the leg to reroute the flow of the fluid.

I was praying all the time and kept a grateful spirit. Many cards, emails of comforting messages made me feel that I was not alone in this trial. Family and friends were by my side, they were literally carrying me through every step of the way. One person sent me an email saying, “You may not know me, but I am praying for you.”

I had never felt so weak physically all my life. There was no complaint about my pain, or my suffering. I was grateful to be alive. Our friend Dr. John Sailhamer was a Bible scholar, fluent in Hebrew and Greek. He wrote many books and Bible commentary. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer disease the same time I was diagnosed with cancer. He was in the early stage of disease when I went through my bio-chemotherapy. He translated Psalm 1 directly from Hebrew and hand wrote it for me. His kindness touched me so much. I read his translation of Psalm 1 every day, and meditated on one word a day. It gave me the assurance of God’s perfect plan for me.

The doctor gave me six weeks to rest until the third cycle of bio-chemotherapy. During these six weeks, my only job was to get strong enough for the next treatment. I’m blessed with a husband who took good care of me, did all the chores and cooking.