Healthy Living: Lymphedema
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At 34 years old, Keirsa Chappell was in her prime as a well conditioned tri-athlete, and then her world was rocked -- she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer.
"I was very healthy. I took care of myself. It was like the rug was pulled out from me," Chappell said.
After a double mastectomy, the removal of several lymph nodes and radiation, she developed lymphedema. The stages of lymphedema vary from a slight swelling to painful elephantiasis. Left untreated, it will not get any better.
Kathryn Taylor Anilowski is a certified lymphedema therapist and knows how to work on the lymph system without causing further damage using CDT, complete decongestive therapy.
"When people have lymphedema they need to be treated differently than a regular PT patient, we can't put hot pack on the patients," she said. “A very light, hands-on technique by stretching the skin it in a certain way we can stimulate the lymphatic system to activate it, get stronger and get rid of the proteins and once the proteins flow, the water flows with it."
Proper skin care, as well as compression sleeves, is essential parts of therapy.
"Not every day when you do strenuous activity, gardening or in the sun or when flying on a plane," Anilowski said.
Reduce the risk of swelling by avoiding blood work or blood pressure being taken in the arm that is affected.
"We ask people not to wear bracelets or watches that are too tight. No heat on that quadrant, no deep massage,” Anilowski said.
Keirsa's symptoms are now gone, and she is back to being active and she is cancer-free.