18 November 2012

Racing the Dragon

'What can I do?!’ Is the thought that raced through my mind, after being diagnosed with lymphedema. Dr. Escargot had given me a few pointers, but once I left the safety of Mount Sinai Hotel and Spa, I started to panic. My symptoms were mild, but who’s to say that my arm wouldn’t swell up overnight. My arm was at the mercy of my imagination, and at 4 in the morning I pictured it swelling up like a loaf of Swedish Limpu bread,  just in time for breakfast.

Swedish Limb-pu Bread
While I waited for my appointment to be made at the lymphedema clinic, I searched for advice. I called the clinic, my massage therapist, and my doctor. They all gave me versions of the same thing – mainly keeping your arm elevated and doing exercises that would keep the lymph fluids circulating in the affected area. I did as I was told, and then found that I would have to wait a month to get into the clinic for an official evaluation. I called Escargot’s office – and was told not to worry because I had a mild case, and early detection is the key.

So I called the clinic. ‘What is the point …’ I said,  ‘…of early detection, if you’re going to make me wait a month to get into the clinic.’  There was a small silence, and I requested be called if there were any cancellations. Lo and behold (whatever that means) I was called back within the hour, and given an appointment for the very next day.

As this was my first appointment, I was to be measured, and given a few little squeeze-y tests with a rubber ball and some high tech hand weights.  But before we could get to that, I had to go into a room with a few other ladies for the Lymphedema Power Point Presentation. I was pumped.

The first half hour was about the lymph and circulatory systems of the body. The nurse, who was reading the words off the screen, droned on as if she’d done it a thousand times before. Sadly it was a bit of a letdown. I read a lot, so it wasn't telling me anything I didn’t already know. To make matters worse, the diagrams where awful.

‘Personal Exercise Program’, was one of the headings, with a black and white man/woman sitting in a chair,  blurry arrows indicating the direction of arm movements, for shoulder lifts, ‘front crawl’, and wrists circles.

Honestly, I don’t know why they don’t liven up those images. With all the money they’re raising or cancer research, they could at least hire an artist to make the slide show a bit more entertaining.  By the time the nurse demonstrated how to ‘march in your seat’ I was discreetly texting my colleagues at the office. I guess was hoping for a magic secret. I really wanted to unearth the secret that would guarantee that the puffy arm wouldn’t get any worse. I would have done anything.

The next heading was ‘Aerobic Training’.  Same horrible eunuch  diagram. And under the headline were four suggestions.  And this is what was written:

Brisk Walking
Dragon Boat Racing

I scanned the screen and laughed out loud. There it was! The secret that would make my lymphedema go awat. I wondered why Escargot hadn’t mentioned it earlier, and perhaps written me a prescription for a boat and a couple of oars.
Lymphedema Prevention

As far as preventative measure it seemed a bit extreme. But at least it answered the question, ‘What can I be doing?’