Yesterday, as part of my day to myself, I dragged my sorry a$$ to the gym. As part of my getting ready ritual, I pulled on my lymphedema sleeve. An older woman entered the previously empty locker room and asked me if it was a lymphedema sleeve. Often I just say it is a compression sleeve so as not to enter the 'what is lymphedema' conversation and get into my medical history with a virtual stranger.
She looked somewhat on edge. I told her it was a lymphedema sleeve. She said she had been diagnosed with breast cancer 28 years ago when she had a lumpectomy and radiation. Then she had a recurrence 7 years ago (I am pretty sure it was 7, it might have been 4) when she had a mastectomy and more treatment.
Three weeks ago she started to get swelling around her implant and around to her back. She had had an MRI and a CT scan to make sure it was not more cancer. It was lymphedema. I believe she said her doctor called it 'sectional lymphedema'.
She wondered how she could have gotten lymphedema at such a late date for no reason. I did remind her you can get it from a little cut or injury. She replied but it wasn't on her arm and just her torso on that side. I did suggest she call and get some treatment asap as it is important to get lymphedema under control as soon as possible. She said she was going to call her doctor back later in the day.
Then we both went our separate ways.
Later I started thinking.
First of all a recurrence over 20 years after the first diagnosis. Crap.
Second of all, lymphedema 28 years after the first diagnosis and 7 years after the second surgery. Double crap.
You start to get comfortable with a cancer diagnosis. And then whammy. You find out about late recurrences and it all becomes a little too close to home. Triple Crap.
That brief conversation gave me a lot of food for thought and was very unsettling.