Anyone who’s had breast cancer will tell you that even with successful treatment, you still feel like you’ve been through the mill. As well as the obvious side effects of your treatment, some women get hit with the double whammy of lymphoedema. It’s times like this when you really need to give yourself some extra special TLC – in whatever way helps you.
One of the first things you’re likely to notice is that you’ve got some swelling in the arm or breast/chest area straight after surgery and this is normal. It should settle down quickly, but if you’re worried about it, have a chat with your specialist team. It’s also quite common to get some swelling in the arm, hand, fingers, breast or chest wall on the same side that you had surgery or radiotherapy.
A build-up of fluid can also lead to a feeling of tightness in your arm, even if it doesn’t look swollen. If it’s starting to feel uncomfortable, try some gentle exercises – your specialist team will probably give you leaflets with different exercises you can do to make things more comfortable. It’s important to exercise your arm and shoulder regularly, even if you really don’t feel like doing anything, to reduce stiffness and encourage the build-up of lymph fluid to drain.
If your skin starts to feel dry and flaky, it can make you feel really horrid, so invest in some really good quality moisturisers, and use them liberally to avoid cracking or infections. Make sure that you dry your skin really thoroughly after washing, and then slather on un-perfumed creams or lotions to make sure that you keep your delicate skin feeling as supple and moist as possible.
It’s perfectly normal to feel hyper-aware and self-conscious about your arms after surgery, or if you’re starting to see signs of lymphoedema. Try not to worry – it’s really common and usually nothing to worry about, although it can make you feel even worse. If you feel happier covering your arms but your long sleeved tops aren’t comfortable any more, treat yourself to a few gorgeous tops to brighten up your wardrobe and make you feel glamorous again.
You might even want to try a couple of versatile pairs of Wingz, designed by the tall and plus size designers at FatPhrocks, which you can add to your old sleeveless tops and dresses to cover up your arms without hiding the original design. They come in three sizes so they aren’t just for plus size woman, and they come in so many varieties that there’ll be more than one finding its way into your basket before you know.
If you need advice about symptoms of lymphoedema following breast cancer treatment, see the Breast Cancer Care website or speak to your specialist…and look after yourself!
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