Cancer Journey/ HEALTH

Cancer Battle Update

{**The following is an entry from my Caring Bridge journal.  If you would like detailed updates on my health, please visit my Caring Bridge site by clicking here.}

As you can see in the picture, I get to wear what looks like “grandma panty hose” on my arm.  It goes great with the fuzzy grandpa haircut I got goin’ on.  Oh, the lovely things cancer brings into ones life!!

I went to my first physical therapy session today and I am SO GLAD I DID!  She was awesome.  I love her.  Very much. Which is a good thing as I will be seeing her twice a week at 8:30 in the morning.  8:30 is usually when I roll myself out of bed in the mornings, so its a good thing she is worth it.  
 I was not sure if what I was experiencing in my arm was just nerve related, but I felt like something was just off. I wondered if I was being a pansy.  I wasn’t:) 
 My PT knew right away what I had–
It is called Lymph Cording.
Basically, when the lymph nodes are cut out during surgery, it can cause the lymph vessels to spasm and freeze up.  It happens in about 10 percent of cases–of course I’m part of that 10% club. Whoop.
Here is some info on cording:

  • Cording occurs as a result of the lymph glands and lymph channels being removed from your axilla region or armpit
  • Cording often shows itself as a palpable tight and painful band of tissue (like a cord – hence the name) running down the arm towards the hand
  • Cording can be felt at any part of the arm (Marjory had pain and tightness down the back of her arm but I’ve heard of other women who feel it in the forearm or around the elbow)
  • Cording is a kind of soft tissue tightness usually seen in the axilla.
    It can extend from the mastectomy or lumpectomy or even the drain scar down the arm to the wrist. It is painful and can sometimes recur. The pain of cording can settle in a few weeks or can last for months
  • Some physical therapists say that the cords can be stretched or massaged and that this can lead to an immediate improvement in range of motion and a decrease in pain. Some women say that massage is too painful to tolerate
  • Cording is probably due to changes in the arm’s lymph vessels and can appear six to eight weeks following surgery or even months or years afterwards.
  • Cording usually gets better spontaneously, though you may need physiotherapy to stretch the cords and some doctors may give you antibiotics as treatment
 If you look at the picture above (the L is for Lymph, not Loser-heh) you can see the beautiful cord running right down the middle of my arm pit.  I think it resembles a chicken wing, which gives me the urge to do the chicken dance. 
It makes it next to impossible to shave, when I told my PT this she said “no more shaving…you do not want a cut there, especially when the lymph system is not working properly” I looked back at her in horror…not only do I have a chicken wing for an armpit, but it will be one with hair.  So. Very. Wrong.
She quickly explained, very cheerily, that it is not a big deal as “radiation will zap those hair follicles and you will never grow hair on that armpit again”  My look of horror turned to a satisfied smile. Something positive about radiation… cool.
She had me lay flat and lift a yardstick straight up with both arms.  I felt the painful “rubber band” feeling on the inside of my elbow.  When I told her this, she said “Well, look at it”  With my arm in that position, you could clearly see 3 little bands pulled tight right underneath my skin.  I couldn’t believe it!  No wonder it hurts!!
She said she was going to do some manual lymph drainage.  That did not sound fun to me, but it was great.  The lymph vessels are right under the skin, so very gentle manipulation makes a big difference.  She started the manipulation and it was painful at times, but she was gentle, and rubbed my arm like you would a pet a cat. She explained that the direction that she goes is the key, and showed me how to do it. When she first started, there were a couple places, when touched, I had to go to my happy place.  Within 5-10 minutes, she was able to manipulate the same areas with little pain.  I thought that was amazing, especially since the petting (meow) was so soft.  It seems like it would not do anything but relax me, but it actually did!  I was grateful.
This is where the lovely arm compress comes in.  It helps keep the lymph fluid distributed. 
 I. No. Like. It.
But, we need to become friends because it will be a part of my life for the rest of my life.  I don’t have to wear it all the time after treatment is over, but whenever I am active (meaning whenever my heart rate is elevated–running, swimming, aerobic type exercises-you know, those things I never do) I need to wear it.  I also have to wear it anytime I fly.  
This will keep me from developing full blown Lymphodema, which is where the fluid drains into the arm and goes nowhere, which causes major swelling.  That is something I really want to avoid so I will do my exercises and learn to like my arm compress. I have to wear it during the day while we are getting the cording under control.
She is confident I will be able to get my arm above my head in two weeks for radiation, if I work hard and keep coming to see her.  
I will.
Poor Todd had an interesting reaction to all of this.  He has been a trooper with all the changes happening to his wife, but when I told him that the cording could rip and “pop” if manipulated to hard, he cringed.. for like.. 5 minutes. 😛
 I don’t think my new granny hose accessory is really his thing, maybe I should have gotten the pink leopard print…no joke, THEY REALLY HAD PINK LEOPARD PRINT!!:)  The one I had ordered is black.  I’m not too into trying to fool people with a flesh colored one.  Who we kidding?
 It cracked me up to see all the different prints they had to offer.  
I’ll take boring black, thankyouverymuch.

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  • Sunny simple life
    January 29, 2011 at 6:16 pm

    You poor babe to have to go thru so much at such a young age. You sound strong and maybe sharing helps in some way. I like the updates and will keep you in my prayers.

  • Cathy M~(checkitoff)
    January 28, 2011 at 4:47 pm

    Amy, my Mom had this as well, but I did not hear it explained quite so well. Keep up with the physical therapy. I know it is difficult and can be very painful, but it will help a lot! You are adorable & I am still praying for you! hugs, Cathy (thinking pink leopard might be fun!!)

  • Tia
    January 27, 2011 at 9:18 pm

    You are just amazing. I have nominated you for a blog award. 🙂 Check out the post at

  • beautydivineblog
    January 27, 2011 at 2:08 am

    Your black granny hose is gonna be totally hot! Just pretend it is a punk rocker sleeve and add a lacy glove on that hand:) By the way, can you get the radiation people to zap both pits? Maybe I will join you so that they can zap mine too. I hate shaving hahahaha

    P.S. I love you and no matter what your arm looks like – granny leg, chicken wing, or swelled up – you are beautiful!

  • Cara
    January 26, 2011 at 7:06 pm

    Your post made me giggle…chicken dance….

    Glad that you are getting some relief!


  • jeana
    January 26, 2011 at 12:37 pm

    You are so cute! Granny hose and all! I’m so happy you got a wonderful therapist. Praying for relief from the pain.

  • Why Not Sew?
    January 26, 2011 at 1:56 pm

    I’m so happy to hear it went well. Your post really made me smile! Chicken dance:)

  • erin
    January 26, 2011 at 11:52 am

    Wow – I am so happy for you. She sounds awesome and like a serious answer to prayer. I think I love her too! 🙂 I think you are rockin’ the granny hose arm thing!

  • AliLilly
    January 26, 2011 at 5:49 am

    OH!! I’m so glad it went well. She sounds WONDERFUL too! I know how worried you were about.

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