Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Spiders & Lymphoedema

Yesterday whilst walking Fagin in the woods I got bitten on my elbow by a spider  :( Ouchy!
I used some antibiotic cream and took an antihistamine but when I woke up today my arm was hot, bright red and swollen. Because I had an SNB during my operation I am at risk of something called Lymphoedema. Therefore I made an emergency appointment with the GP and got prescribed a week's worth of antibiotics (they are the size of horse pills!)
Lymphoedema is something that I had never even heard of before I was diagnosed with breast cancer. As soon as I did hear about it I was really scared that I would get it.
Let me explain a bit more.. Lymphoedema is the swelling that develops because of a build up of fluid in the body's tissues. This happens when the body's lymphatic system isn't working properly and cannot drain fluid away.
After treatment (surgery and/or radiotherapy) for Breast Cancer, the areas most at risk are your arm, hand and armpit (axilla). This is because during surgery you have 1 or more lymph nodes removed to test for spread. The more lymph nodes removed, the greater the risk of lymphoedema. Around 25% of people who have had BC surgery will develop it. As I had an SNB, my risk rate of developing lymphoedema is around 10%.
Unfortunately there is no cure for lymphoedema so the best idea is to try to reduce your risk of getting it in the first place. This is easier said than done which is why it is something that worries me so much.
Tips for Reducing Risk (taken from BCC):

·         Gentle exercise such as swimming or walking will keep your joints supple and is important for lymph drainage.

·         Look after the skin on your ‘at risk’ arm.

·         Try not to use very hot or cold water.

·         Avoid very hot saunas or steam rooms.

·         Avoid having your blood pressure or blood samples taken from your ‘at risk’ arm.

·         Avoid having deep-tissue massage to your ‘at-risk’ arm.However, there is no need to avoid massage altogether.

·         Try to avoid cuts, scratches, insect bites or stings on your ‘at risk’ arm.

·         Avoid biting your nails.

·         Avoid getting sunburnt.

·         Take care when removing unwanted hair in your armpit. Using a well maintained electric razor is the safest method. Waxing is not recommended because it can cause damage to the skin and might increase the risk of infection.

·         Avoid constriction around the arm and armpit from tight fitting bras, sleeves and clothing or heavy shoulder bags.
Ensure watches, rings and bracelets are not too tight.

·         Try not to strain with activities such as pushing or pulling, digging the garden or heavy lifting such as carrying heavy shopping bags.

·         During long journeys, gently exercise your arm as much as possible. If you are standing on a train or a bus, try not to hold on with your ‘at risk’ arm.

So as you can see there are loads of things to avoid! When I got bitten by the spider I started to panic a bit but got antibiotics pretty quickly so I hope I have done enough to minimise my risk. Since doing some more research though, I have learned that even if you do do any of the things above, it doesn't necessarily mean that you will get lymphoedema, just as some people who don't do any of the things above may develop it anyway. It's all down to the individual's drainage system. 

If you notice any changes to your skin, signs of swelling to your arm, hand or chest wall, redness or infection then contact your GP. They will prescribe you antibiotics or refer you to a Lymphoedema Nurse.

As I said before, there is no cure for lymphoedema but it can be managed through:

Compression Garments
These work by:
  • compressing the swollen tissues and stopping fluid from building up
  • helping to move fluid to an area that’s draining well
  • providing support, which allows the muscles to pump fluid away more effectively
  • applying more pressure in certain areas to encourage the fluid to drain.
These aren't all horrible tan colours thankfully:

Specialised Massage
Manual Lymphatic Drainage
Simple Lymphatic Drainage

Limb Positioning
Info from Macmillan

Lymphoedema does sound stressful but manageable and thankfully there are some really helpful sites out there:

The Lymphoedema Support Network
The British Lymphology Society

Fingers crossed my antibiotics do their job!





Thursday, 11 July 2013

Modelling Debut

This evening I was a model in a Charity Gala Fashion Show, the proceeds of which went to The Olive Tree

The evening took place at a lovely pub called The Green Man in Partridge Green near Horsham. I arrived and sat in a lovely sparkly roofed marquee with 8 other ladies who attend the Olive Tree and waited for the stage and catwalk to be set up! About an hour later we had our make-up and hair (yay for having enough hair to do something with!) done - proper pampering - and then headed back stage to organise our outfits.
All the clothes for the evening came from La Vida Boutique. I had been over to the shop earlier in the week to try on different clothes for the different themes, I had 6 outfits to model. You can see them in the photo below:
We've been told that we'll be sent some photos of us actually wearing the clothes so I'll put some up here when I get them :)
I modelled 4 different outfits (including one mega tight body con dress!) to start with and then we had a sit down meal with the guests who attended the show. I was careful not to eat too much dinner because I knew I had a super tight white dress to wear as my final piece!
The whole evening was really good fun and most importantly of all (other than lots of money being raised), I didn't fall over!

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Coughs and Sneezes

I've had a persistent cough now for about 3 weeks. Lots of people at work have it too but given everything I thought I'd go to the docs.

I went over first thing this morning at 08h15 and got given an appointment at 9am. Doc examined me and said chest seems normal (and told me that there are a lot of viral coughs going around at the moment), but given my history wanted me to have a chest x-ray anyway.

I asked when it was for and she said they could fit me in immediately at the hospital. Drove there, waited 5 minutes and had x-ray.

Now I have to wait a week for the results. I so hate the waiting game but am blimmin impressed with the NHS' efficiency this morning!

Update: Called the docs for the results of my chest x-ray. Receptionist said notes on system say "satisfactory result. No further action required" Hoooooray!

Monday, 8 July 2013

Little Princess Trust

On the 31st August my friend Carrie is shaving her head for charity. It's not just any charity either, she's hoping to raise money for and also donate her lovely long hair to The Little Princess Trust.

The Little Princess Trust provides real hair wigs (free of charge) to children who have lost their hair through illness, most often chemotherapy. This is where Carrie's hair will be going, it will be turned into a gorgeous wig for a child going through hair loss.

Having gone through the this trauma myself, I obviously know what a horrible time this can be. So providing some comfort to children though free wigs is a really great thing.

If you can spare any pennies (or pounds) to help Carrie with this fantastic charity then please do so by clicking here