I never thought about life as ‘a journey’, at least not consciously. It is a concept we always know is a part of life, but we tend to define ourselves by what we do, what we get good at doing, or talents we use to walk our various paths, work or play, not just that we are on a journey to somewhere. To where, is a topic for another day.
I have mentioned before that I have lymphedema. If you look in dictionary.com you will find
- Word Origin
1. the accumulation of lymph in soft tissue with accompanying swelling,often of the
extremities: sometimes caused by inflammation, obstruction, or removal of lymph channels.
For me, it began many years ago with a bout of cellulitis in my right leg. Simply, cellulitis is an infection or inflammation of any of the tissues of the body, characterized by fever, pain, swelling, and redness of the affected area. That means, on the calf of my leg, I noticed a swelling area that became hot to the touch and when I went to the doctor to check it out, I found out it was an infection of ‘stagnant’ fluid stuck in the tissues of my leg that hadn’t been removed properly by the lymphatic system. You take antibiotics to get rid of the infection and forget about it.
Only, a couple of years later, I got cellulitis again, and then again, and over time it returned once more. The last time, my right leg was almost twice the size of my left leg. The antibiotics couldn’t get rid of the infection and I was put into the hospital for intravenous drugs to combat the infection. That was when I was diagnosed with lymphedema. The only thing you do for it, is treat it by wearing compression garments for the rest of your life to help remove the fluid and to prevent cellulitis. (I found out later, that some women, who have had their lymph nodes removed under their arms for breast cancer treatment, will develop lymphedema in their arms.)
So I spent some time in the hospital to get rid of the infection which was persistent, and ended up doing intravenous antibiotics at home for a time just to make sure. After that, I went to an outpatient therapy clinic for lymphedema therapy.
That meant, I laid on a low table while a therapist massaged the path of the lymph nodes in my legs and then put an elaborate and bulky combination of wraps and foam rubber on my leg until it looked like a mummy’s leg. It is huge, bulky and hard to move around. The object is to mimic the job of the lymphatic system and remove the excess build up of fluids within the tissues of my leg. The treatments lasted for several months wrapping first one leg and then the other. In my right leg, I lost 25 lbs. of fluid. In my left, I think it was about 12. After that, I learned about the fun of wearing compression hose daily. I like to think of them as support hose on steroids.
That was 7 or 8 years ago. During my last year of work, I began to notice that my thighs were getting larger. Because of my age, arthritis in hands etc. and knees that don’t cooperate when asked to, I went from panty hose, to knee hi hose and thigh highs once in a while when at home. I began noticing my thighs were in my way more, when taking care of business in the bathroom at work. At first I thought it was just my difficulty in my mobility.
After I left work and began my time of home health care and being home bound, I noticed once again that the thighs were getting larger. When I started developing ‘rolls’ on the insides of my thighs, I realized they really were getting bigger and that my lymphedema was probably to blame.
I called the two women who had given me my lymphedema therapy at the outpatient clinic and made an appointment for an assessment. When I discovered that insurance and medicare wouldn’t cover home health care and outpatient treatments at the same time, I had to cancel the appointment and arrange for occupational therapy trained in lymphedema therapy to come to my home.
And so, last Friday I got my left leg wrapped once again like a mummy. My worry was I wouldn’t be able to get up, or get to the bathroom dragging the huge bulky leg once it was wrapped. I remember having a hard time before just getting it on the bed at night and now I am much less mobile than I used to be. That turned out to be a non issue. What I didn’t remember was the pressure. But I also developed areas on my leg that were uncomfortable to the point of being painful. My foot felt like it was swelling to the point of the toes feeling like they needed to pop and it felt like there was a tourniquet around my ankle. A patch behind my knee on my thigh felt like it was being cut by wraps that had slipped a little and were now acting like a band digging into that area.
I tolerated it for two days until I didn’t feel like I could flex my ankle any longer and took off the wraps. I had not done that before and was reluctant to do it this time knowing I need this therapy to help my legs. Once I removed all the many bandages and wraps, my skin felt a little like shriveled up sandpaper and was so tender to the touch, I cried out when I put my calf up onto the bed. I remembered a few times of having this sensitivity after removing my compression hose at the end of the day, but this was much much worse.
So when the therapist comes again this afternoon, to remove and redo my wraps, which I have already done, we will have to talk about all of this and see what options we have. I don’t think we will have to quit the therapy wraps, but maybe be more careful the wraps aren’t too tight around those tender areas or something. You never know how your body is going to tolerate a certain treatment. We are all different and you never know until you try it.
And so, my journey has taken a new turn. The road is always twisting and turning and ambling one way and another, checking out side paths and veering off the main road. But it always moves forward. And so, the journey continues…