Sunday, 21 August 2011

Strong Armed

Following a morning of rigorous and passionate spring cleaning I'm having a mini melt down. I've done it one armed. Not only does this increase the time taken by about 100%, it leaves me with a mental projection of my future self. This lymphoedema rubbish means I'm always having a battle with myself to remember to forget my left arm. Since I'm not allowed to lift anything heavier than 1kg with it (a third of the weight of my littlest cat), I'm having to retrain my brain as a one armed individual.

Did I mention that I love shoes? I think I might have - This love sees me take an extra canvas bag to work every day, (on top of my leather bag du jour), containing my heels, since I can't travel on rush hour buses in them; Camilla Skovgaard boots are not designed for standing room only. This canvas bag then gets filled with a large amount of office tat to be brought home every day, since there is space there to fill. Oh and since I'm carrying spare shoes and tat, I may as well heft home that internet delivery I got sent to the office too. And the M&S shop on the way back too of course. No balancing pack horse act for me anymore, oh no, now I must carry with my right arm only. Every day. Excuse me, but what the f**k is going to happen to my body? On top of the a symmetric tit situation, naturally broad shoulders and super cropped hair I am going to have to add withered, puny, wasted left arm, and bulking, sinewy, body-builder-esque right one to the equation. Oh good lord. As if Dadjokes doesn't have enough of a challenge already...

The excess baggage of the Look beauty team. that's only 3 people...

You may remember me mentioning my current right arm anomaly already too - the baffling extra three cm that the god of unbalanced body parts bestowed upon my right bicep? I really am not comfortable with helping the bastard in its mission to blot out all light and lesser limbs in photo opportunities. I also keep forgetting about the left arm lifting ban, and remember at inopportune moments, such as carrying heavy frying pan contents to plate. This has resulted on frying plan being dropped IMMEDIATELY, twice. Burnt leg, bent pan, no dinner. Or I carry the 'last weeks product launches' bag to the beauty cupboard, then remember and chastise my idiotic self for the next half an hour whilst watching my left arm closely for signs of ballooning. Not conducive to a hard days achieving in the workplace.

Is that even how it works? I'm not sure how, when or why lymphoedema occurs, so I don't know what initial signs I'm looking for, but I know I don't want to see them. Apparently my risk is about 30%, since I had all my lymph nodes out, and I know I'm not allowed to chance an infection in my left arm as this, as well as all the lifting, makes my risk greater. That means no opportunistic cat-scratch cuddling, no blood or blood pressure tests and no blinking armpit shaving, leaving me in yet another awkward beauty quandary. No shaving, no waxing (aside from the risk of ingrown hairs, it bloody hurts too much, plus there is a wound there, ew), and I'm not entirely comfortable about chemical laden hair removal creams these days. So that leaves me with, well, with hairy armpits. So far I'm being very Julia Roberts about it and try not to wince when I assume my radiotherapy position; laid back, arms above head, three or sometimes four medical professionals peering at my body closely. I'm sure they've seen hairier, but its just not in my nature to be comfortable with hirsutism. Oh how I genuinely miss chemotherapy benefits sometimes - yes you heard me, benefits.

So far so good on the lymphoedema avoidance front though, but I can feel the cockiness creeping in. Oh it won't happen to me, I can lift my slightly overweight cat* up nooo problem, since nothing has happened the last few hundred times, and cat-avoidance is more alien to me than hairy armpits. Plus I'm feeling more and more normal every day, and a redundant left arm is just not normal. Its really hard to unlearn how useful it is. I've done enough lifestyle changes, I'd like to hold onto some bodily traditions, thank you very much.

Please do tell me if I'm being an idiot and must be stricter than Posh Spice in a chocolate factory about this, I'm not feeling so relaxed about the relaxing. Every time I put my own body weight on it to push myself out of bed for a wee (how am I supposed to remember in the middle of the night?), I have nightmarish visions of waking up with a semi-permanently swollen arm and wonder how I'll hide it for Katie's wedding, not to mention fit it in the bridesmaid dress.

Although if it did happen, it would be great to stop swelling at 3 cm to catch up with mutant right arm. Then at least I would achieve a bit of balance in my life. Disproportionate body building balance maybe, but I do like  bit of symmetry. Every cloud and all that...

*apparently I am  feeder. I can't resist it when he asks me. Bad mother...


  1. I have mild lymphoedema now. All nodes out here as well, plus it was my right arm (dominant) and I have 2 kids under 3. I first noticed puffiness and more marking from sleeves than the other side. Mainly mid arm - my hand is normal for now. Just so you know how it starts.... Just in case.

  2. Unlearning things must be so hard, especially when you are so determined to get your life all back to normal! Glad to hear you can lift your moggies now, that would have been dreadful trying to manage one armed furry snuggles.

  3. hi Sophie
    Apparently the first sign is a feeling of heaviness in the arm, lift it up high if you feel that and if it swells get thee to a doctor immediately they can do things to minimise it.

    I am paranoid about lymphodema too. The fact it is a rest of life thing really annoys me. Having said that, the risk is highest in 12 months after surgery.

    And don't be too worried - I have been doing weight training since surgery with no problems - there are studies to show it helps - my surgeon told me to life nothing heavier than 6 kg so you can see there are a lot of discrepancies in the advice.