Bernadette Pierce - My Story
I CAN HELP YOU. I'VE BEEN THERE TOO.
Following my operation in 2009 for breast cancer I developed Lymphoedema in my arm. Being a nurse, I was aware of the possibility of developing this, but I believed or hoped that it was a longshot.
Not so. I was surprised by the speed with which it developed. Within days of my discharge from hospital, I was searching for someone who could help me as my arm was beginning to swell. This was not easy, especially as it was very close to Christmas and a lot of people were winding down for the holidays.
I knew very little about treatment, but I did know that I needed a garment. The hospital has given me an exercise sheet only, so to get the rest of what I needed meant a lot of time on the phone and the Internet.
The Cancer Society was very helpful in giving me some pointers. I was lucky to see a nurse in St. Luke's who gave me a sleeve and told me about the MLD website.
Then I managed to find a therapist close to me. I decided to train as a therapist myself, partly so as to get as much information as I could to help myself.
And I discovered a passion for it. I love passing on my experience and information to my clients. I love seeing the limb reducing. I love seeing people struggling on their way in to me and walking out with ease.
I use a Hivamat Deep Oscillation Machine which is great for pain relief as well as reducing swelling. Plus in some cases I use Kinesio tape and bandaging.
Getting Help From The Right People
Access To Information Is Critical
In one sense I am on both sides of the bed, being both client and therapist. I can empathize with where people are at and I know the things they want to know.
The main things I hear from people at first is
"Why didn't someone tell me this?"
"I have been searching for a long time for the right treatment."
Not everyone develops Lymphoedema following their operation, but a lot, if not most, have the possibility of it occurring. With good information it may be possible to prevent it from occurring.
Such things like
1. Using a garment on the affected side when flying even if there is no swelling.
2. Avoiding getting sunburn on the affected limb.
3. Never carrying heavy things for an extended amount of time.
4. Exercise is great but begin slowly and with light weights to start.
5. If it's a leg, never wear flip-flops on the beach.
6. Good skincare is vital.