For most women, getting ready for work is like preparing for opening night on the Broadway stage. All of the makeup, hair and costume acrobatics performed on a daily basis before 7 a.m. would give even Idina Menzel pause.
For women with lymphedema, getting assembled for the day is even more challenging. Our routines include more than the application of foundation, blush, mascara and hairspray.
What are among the most common activities for lymphedema ladies? Remove compression bandages (5 minutes), roll up compression bandages (10 minutes), shower/dry-off/moisturize/elevate legs (30 minutes), conduct manual lymph drainage (20 minutes), don compression garment or garments (15 minutes), choose the least restrictive ensemble for the day – from the feet up (10 minutes). With all of these added lymph-tivities, it is a wonder anyone with this condition ever makes it out the door!
As a working professional who has been living with lymphedema for 16 years, I am continually looking for more efficient ways to manage my health situation. One lymph-tivity that I have eliminated from my morning routine, saving me valuable time: morning shower and post-shower leg elevation.
People with lymphedema cannot go immediately from a warm shower to stuffing themselves into compression stockings. That would be like Ross trying to get back into his leather pants.
After a shower, I have been standing without compression stockings for about 20 minutes (which means my legs have started to ache and swell), my body temperature has risen from the warm water of the shower and my skin is damp from the lotion I have applied (moisturizing skin prevents the dryness that makes skin more susceptible to infection).
Before squeezing my legs into full pantyhose compression stockings, I first elevate my legs above my heart using a wedge pillow for about 15 minutes. That allows my body to cool down and the lotion to soak into my skin.
However, I have been able to eliminate this step from my morning routine altogether. How? Simple – by adding it to my evening routine instead, showering before I go to sleep. The benefits are many.
- Fewer disapproving looks at work. Gaining a half hour in the morning means a greater chance of getting to work on time.
- Happy skin, happy stockings. Having all night instead of just 15 minutes gives the skin ample time to soak in the lotion and to cool down. This is also good for compression garments, since any lotion or product may damage them.
- Less stress. Nighttime showers can wash away the problems of the day, allowing you to go to bed relaxed.
- Greater efficiency and sense of normalcy. No shower and elevating in the morning means being able to get up and “put my legs on” right away. And maybe even have time for a little mascara.
For those of us with lymphedema, it’s the simple things that can make all the difference.