Today is Memorial Day in the United States, a day in which we remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. Visiting the graves of some of these brave men and women at Arlington National Cemetery this weekend put my daily battle with lymphedema into perspective.
They paid the price. And so did their families.
This image shows the back side of the headstones where the name of the soldier’s spouse is engraved. I noticed that often, several decades separated the two before they were re-joined in this final resting place.Continue reading “Their sacrifice, our duty.”→
Dry brushing is a detox method touted in many health and beauty publications for its ability to encourage weight loss, reduce cellulite and stimulate lymphatic flow. But is dry brushing a good idea for lymphies?
Watch this video to find out how many butterflies dry brushing earns on Lymphedema Diary’s five-butterfly rating system. (The butterfly is the international symbol of lymphedema)
Sexy is usually not a word that comes to mind when you think lymphedema. Compression garments. Pneumatic pumps. Bandages. Accessories like these are not likely to be spotted in Vogue’s Fall Fashion Preview.
But last weekend, I met a woman who can make any lymphie feel attractive – and improve their lymphatic flow – by starting with one of the first things they put on in the morning – a bra.
When you have lymphedema or are at risk for developing lymphedema, it is suggested that you avoid clothing or jewelry that restrains lymphatic flow. One of the biggest flow offenders? Underwire bras. The wires, intended to support and shape the breast, can dig into lymphatic vessels, encouraging the buildup of lymphatic fluid in a limb.
So what’s a fashion-forward lymphie to do?
One option might be to let the “girls” go free. At home on the weekends? Absolutely. At the office presenting in front of your staff? Not recommended.
Another option is a well-fitted, wireless bra. Finding a bra – any bra- that fits comfortably is a feat. Finding one without a wire that fits well and looks sexy? That’s gold medal worthy.
Meet the Olympic champion of wireless bra fitting – Ilissa Manes of Peach.
Memorial Day in America is a solemn occasion, but it marks the unofficial start to summer in the United States. As most Americans shed heavy clothes and head for the beach with their family and friends, those of us with lymphedema brace ourselves…and feel isolated.
Our enemy – heat – has arrived. We scour the stores (unsuccessfully) for summer pants that aren’t cropped or in some other way designed to reveal our compression stockings and swollen legs. We seek shelter in air-conditioned rooms. We hope and pray that our “summer swelling” will go back down when the cooler temps return in the fall.
Lymphedema can make us feel like a prisoner in our own bodies. Especially in the warmer temps. This summer – try not to let it.
It’s hard to believe that growing up (pre-lymphedema), summer was my favorite season. But I didn’t love summer because of the heat. I loved it because summer was freedom. I could do what I wanted with my time. Be with my friends. Practice with my synchronized swimming team. Go out on dates. Go to the movies.
Thanks to Winter Storm Jonas and the nearly 30” of snow he left in his wake, I and millions of others along the east coast have been holed up in our homes for 36 hours and counting.
With nowhere to go and a new book awaiting me on my Kindle, I decided to give my legs a snow day too. No compression stockings. Bare legged. A break from the normal 16 hours a day spent cooped up in tight, thick nylon-spandex, from toes to tummy.
What a glorious day! Toes wiggling. Thighs rubbing against cozy Cuddl Duds softness. No pinching, pulling, or squeezing. Freedom!
Don’t wait for a “Snowmaggedon” to give your legs a day off. If you are able, try letting them “air out” for a day, a day of freedom, while still maintaining lymphatic flow.
Take a load off. Limit the time you spend standing. Keep your legs elevated above your heart as much as possible. The natural effect of gravity will facilitate lymphatic flow. When cooking and preparing meals, try sitting on a stool or chair. Logically, spending significant time on your feet without compression is not recommended.
Kick your feet up. Literally. Find a chair that lifts your legs up while taking pressure off of your back. Watch a movie or read a book while compression-stocking-free.
Hydrate your legs. Pampering your skin is a luxury you don’t have while confined to compression stockings; so take advantage of this time. Every few hours, apply lotion to your legs, working it in with upward strokes to encourage lymphatic flow. And don’t forget your feet! I recommend Eucerin Smoothing Repair for Dry Skin or Medi Night Creme.
Wear cozy socks. Let your feet experience what normal feet do – the luxury of soft fabric directly against the skin. Choose a style of sock that does not bind at the top, cutting off lymphatic flow. Diabetic socks are made with this in mind. Non-binding socks made by Sockwell (pictured right), Soft Fit and Softop are available through Footsmart.com or Amazon.
Although June 21st is the calendar start of summer, Memorial Day (in America) marks the unofficial start. For the average person, the season means fun, sun and sandals. For those of us with lymphedema, it can mean swelling, sweat, and praying for September to come early.
When you are a lymphie, heat is a four letter word.
Putting on and then wearing thick, tight compression stockings all day, every day is challenging enough. Add eighty-plus-degree-heat and a bucket of humidity, and we are ready to volunteer for the crew of ‘Ultimate Survival Alaska.’
For women (like me) who must wear full-pantyhose compression stockings, the most unpleasant hazard of the summer heat can be yeast infections.
Yeast infections are not listed as a side-effect on stocking product materials. Neither is your regular doctor likely to warn you about them, because (GROAN) the medical profession lacks focus and funding on our field of study.
Yet I assure you, yeast infections and pantyhose compression stockings go hand-in-hand. Yeast thrives in warm, moist places, causing a fungal infection resulting in itching, redness, swelling, burning and a discharge that looks like cottage cheese. Summer fun, it is not.
So what can you do to avoid developing this uncomfortable medical condition on top of an already uncomfortable medical condition?
Victoria isn’t the only one who knows this secret. Some manufacturers, for an extra fee, can remove the crotch from stockings. Juzo offers this as a regular option in their Soft product line. Unless Dr. Ruth is on the board of Juzo, one would surmise there was a medical function to this design.
An open crotch promotes a cool, dry and airy — how shall we say….”environment.” Don’t negate these positive effects by wearing tight pants or synthetic panties. In hot and humid weather, skirts and cotton panties (or none!) are the way to go. In addition, be sure to change out of wet swimsuits and gym clothes immediately after a workout.
Compression stockings alone do not move lymph fluid. They help prevent more fluid from collecting. Only exercise (combined with compression stockings), massage and therapeutic devices can propel lymph fluid through uncooperative lymph vessels back toward the heart, where it belongs.
I do my best to exercise regularly, because exercise stimulates lymphatic flow. In the wintertime, however, it is more difficult for me to get motivated to exercise.Here in New York state, we have had a great deal of the fluffy white stuff this winter. If you live in a similar area, you might want to try an exercise that’s fun, great for lymphedema and sure to keep you moving during these cold months. It’s called snowshoeing.
(Click below to watch the video for a demonstration – or read the transcript that follows – to see how snowshoeing is a perfect lymph fluid-moving wintertime activity.)
Special thanks go to my mother and brother, who gave me the snowshoes and poles as a Christmas present this year. My family has always encouraged me to try new things as I cope with lymphedema. You never know what new activity, product or routine could make an impact in the successful management of this condition. I am very lucky to have cheerleaders to keep pushing me past my comfort zone, and to make sure I never lose hope that we all can find a better way to live with lymphedema.
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Compression stockings squeeze you enough. Your stocking dealer shouldn’t squeeze you as well. So, how do you choose a business that will provide you with products at a fair price with good service that you can count on?
When choosing a compression stocking dealer, always remember -you are a consumer, not a patient. Stockings are a product – an expensive product – and you are a consumer paying money (usually a lot of money) for goods. You deserve courtesy and satisfaction in your purchasing experience.
Like many people with lymphedema, when I was first diagnosed, I was told to wear compression stockings every waking hour for the rest of my life. But I wasn’t told anything else about compression stockings. This video kicks off a featured blog series of compression stocking survival tips called, “A Leg Up: Compression Stocking Tips – What the Doctors Don’t Tell You.” Throughout the series, I will share information that I wish I had been told the day I was diagnosed.
Get a leg up on your lymphedema – click below to watch or read the transcript that follows. Please share, comment and sign up for email alerts, so you don’t miss any future tips. My next tip will be on “Where to Buy Compression Stockings.”