10 November 2012

My Right Arm

My mother Violet likes to torture me when I’m driving. I’m behind the wheel, and she sits in the passenger seat gazing calmly out the window. I think, just for a second, that everything is going to be fine. But then she shifts slightly, sighs deeply, and stretches out her left arm, her hand resting on my headrest.

“Why do you do that!?’ I squeal.
“Do what?’ she asks innocently.

My mother’s been doing this for so long that doesn’t even notice she’s doing it. So I have to tell her that I don’t like anyone tapping my head while I’m driving. She looks at me, and I can tell by her fake-neutral gaze that she thinks I’m a little high strung, which I am. And I prove it further by telling her to imagine that there is an invisible line down the middle of the car, and she has to stay on her side. And that includes her hand.

Now, over the last couple of weeks I’ve been starting to feel a strange tingling in my right arm. It feels as though there is a cord running down the centre of the arm, and someone is trying to tighten it. It’s not painful, but it’s weird.  But my body has been through so much  discomfort this year, that I didn’t give it much thought. Then a few days ago I noticed that my hand was puffy. I tried to ignore it, but when I went to put on my favorite Michael Jackson glove, it didn’t fit.

I lay in bed that night thinking the worse. Lymphedema. A condition common in canceritis patients who have had their nodes remove, and I lost 22. Lymphedema is swelling in the affected arm or hand caused by a buildup of lymph fluid. The swelling happens because lymph nodes, which normally act as filters, aren’t able to do their job as well because they’ve been removed by surgery, or damaged by radiation. In the most sever cases you look Popeye. In the minor cases, you get a puffy hand.

So I ran down to see Dr. Escargot. His tiny hands, (which seemed even tinier due to my puffiness) gave me the once over,  and he said that I do indeed have lymphedema,  and while chronic, it is manageable and no cause for concern. Having said that, he went on to say that I would need lymphatic massages (no problem!) and a compression sleeve (ugh).  But, in the meantime, there a few things I could do. Firstly, I must avoid heavy lifting, do a lot of stretches, and keep my arm elevated for at least 45 minutes a day.

I’ve tried sleeping with my arm up on a stack of pillows, but it quickly falls down by my side. I’ve tried propping it up while I watch TV, but either I get to restless, or I end up using my right arm to refill my wine.

So the only logical place where I can keep my arm elevated is in the car. I spend gigantic chunks of time on the Gardiner Expressway, and I’ve decided to use the time to my advantage. Sometimes I put my hand inside the visor, where it will stay still. Sometime I stretch it straight up  so my palm is flat on the roof of the car. 

But mostly, I shift slightly in my seat, sigh deeply, and stretch my arm over the passenger seat, resting it on the headrest. I’ve yet to have a passenger, but I’m look forward to the day when I can chauffeur my mom, and have an excuse to smack her lightly in back of her head.