I came in from a hike about an hour ago – getting out to enjoy this beautiful spring weather before I go to work. I’m having a bit of mild swelling in my hand since then. I do occasionally have minor bouts of swelling because of my compromised lymph system. Lymphedema is a risk many cancer survivors live with. I’m not really sure what triggered it; it could be the heat (it’s suddenly much warmer today), or I may be slightly dehydrated, or it could be an infection. It’s hard to know precisely what triggers it, and everyone’s bodies react differently. It’s important for us to pay attention and figure out what works and doesn’t work for our bodies.
This is pretty mild, so I’m not going to worry too much about it. But I will keep an eye on it, and see my doctor if it gets worse. In the mean time, there are a number of exercises I can do (and plan to, many times) to help stimulate my lymph system.
First, I’ve been doing a lot of shoulder rolls (I like rolling them to the back). I also do a lot of wing pinches: With your arms at your sides, bend your elbows to 90 degrees. Hold your hands, palms up, slightly wider than your body, keeping elbows at your side. Draw your elbows back and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Arm circles are good, as well: Extend your arms, straight, out to the side at shoulder height. Turn your palms up and make small circles to the back with your arms. And finally, I’ll be doing a lot of deep breathing, which helps to pump the lymph system; and my favorite, jiggling my raised arm (like I’m waving to my loyal subjects).
All of these simple movements help to stimulate the lymph system. I expect, based on past experience, that within a couple of days my hand and arm will be back to normal. Because of my extensive surgery and treatments, I know that I am at a higher risk for lymphedema. And it’s an ongoing risk; it doesn’t go away – ever. But there is a great deal I can do to help my body function in it’s compromised state so that I can live a perfectly normal life.