The Impact of Lymphoedema
Seven years ago, a fall on a patch of ice changed Susan’s life forever. Before that incident, Susan enjoyed an active lifestyle just outside Toronto, with a career in the fashion industry, and a thriving young family. “I considered myself fit and healthy”, she said. “I took pride in that”. Everything changed after the fall. Although it didn’t injure her too badly, the x-rays she got in the hospital revealed a much more serious problem: breast cancer.
A year of battling the illness with harsh chemo and radiation therapy finally culminated in a complete mastectomy of her right breast. The drastic treatment worked, Susan was cancer-free. But another diagnosis followed shortly thereafter – Lymphoedema.
To remove Susan’s breast, her surgeons also had to remove some of the lymph nodes under her right arm. These nodes help to filter and circulate clearing away debris, and warding off infections. Without these lymph nodes, a reservoir of lymph built around Susan’s arm. The arm swelled up, and became extremely vulnerable to infection. “It was like a handicap,” Susan said. “I hated it. My arm ballooned, the skin looked off, and I couldn’t lift more than 5 pounds with it”.
Susan’s condition also came with serious risks. Three or four times a year, her arm would inflame with cellulitis – a potential life-threatening infection of the skin. The condition requires immediate hospitalisation, and a strong battery of antibiotics. The repeated experiences made Susan miserable. Her frequent hospitalisations also started to affect her career. Susan had to miss important business trips to New York City, She couldn’t reliably keep appointments.
Worse, her friends didn’t understand it. They didn’t grasp the underlying causes behind Susan’s illness. “They couldn’t understand that these flare-ups were mostly out of my control” Susan said. Ever her husband and son, who she could always count on her for support had started to see her differently. Susan noticed a new note in their relationship – pity. Instead of lively, vivacious professional she used to be, now she seemed like a frail, sickly woman. This was devastating for her. “I hated being seen that way, as the ‘sick person,'” she said. “That’s not who I am. Certainly not who I want to be”.
Years of battling the disease, of exhausting trips to the hospital every quarter, finally came to a head two years ago. A new bout of cellulitis struck her arm – this one much worse than the others. Clinical staff could not reduce the swelling. The bacteria in her skin resisted antibiotic treatment. At no point could her doctors deliver her any reassuring news. For her entire 13 night stay, Susan was warned that she stood a good chance of losing her arm, or even dying.
Luckily, Susan was discharged intact. but the experience shook her fundamental sense of well-being. More than sickly, now Susan felt afraid and hopeless. Even worse, she lost any sense of safety. The next encounter with cellulitis could be mere months away – and there was no guarantee she’d survive it.
To Johns Hopkins, for LymphaTouch Therapy
This frightening revelation motivated Susan to take drastic action. She flew down to Baltimore, to see an oncology rehab specialist at Johns Hopkins. One of the specialists, Kathy McGinty, introduced Susan to LymphaTouch. “When I first met Susan I could tell she was feeling pretty despondent”. Kathy said. “She was at stage II, or early-stage III of Lymphoedema”. This meant that protein-heavy lymph fluid had gathered around Susan’s arm, and started to turn her tissues fibrotic. “Parts of her arm had that thick, doughy feeling consistent with fibrosis”. Kathy observed, “That was the first symptom I knew the LymphaTouch could help with”.
But when Susan first clapped eyes on the LymphaTouch she had a sceptical reaction. “I didn’t want to try it at first,” she said. “I had tried other therapies, and nothing was working. I didn’t think this new machine could help”. Kathy has noticed this reaction from most patients who come to see her. “Manual massages can be therapeutic, and they’re gentle, so patients can get attached to how they feel. But the LymphaTouch does work things that hands just can’t. I coaxed Susan into giving it a try”.
During the first session, Kathy used The LymphaTouch’s negative pressure to lift the fibrotic tissue of Susan’s skin. This expanded the space for blocked-up lymph to circulate. Then, a gentle mechanical vibration shook the fibrotic tissue, softening it almost immediately. ” I noticed a change in how my arm felt right away”. Susan said. “Honestly I was shocked”.
“The LymphaTouch started to give her arm tissue some pliability and suppleness”, Kathy said “I knew it was doing its job”.
With continued sessions, Susan started to see other important improvements. Her arm lost its discoloration. It regained mobility and function. And before long, Kathy observed an even bigger change. “She was getting happier every time she came in and her emotional strength was coming back” Kathy reported.
“Those first few sessions had a big impact on my mood,” Susan said. “I started feeling hopeful again. I felt safe for the first time in years”.
More Therapeutic Possibilities
Kathy reports that Susan’s results are typical for her patients. “For Lymphoedema patients, it used to take 5 – 6 weeks to get them ready to discharge. But with the LymphaTouch that time’s down to 3 weeks”. She’s also been continually delighted at the range of applications for the device. “I’ve gotten patients off feeding tubes after treating myofascial restrictions of facial muscles. I’ve taken patients off Foley catheters after treating Lymphoedema of the genitals; I’ve seen it help heal irradiated tissue after cancer treatment, restore proprioception for patients with peripheral neuropathy, and I’ve even seen it help treat Lyme Disease,” Kathy said, “and at the end of the day my hands feel much better because I’m not so much manual massage”. Kathy says that she couldn’t imagine working without it.
A New Life After Treatment
But for Susan, the LymphaTouch’s most important effect wouldn’t become obvious for a while. It’s been almost a year and a half since those first sessions. In that time, Susan’s arm only went through one mild bout of cellulitis. That’s an enormous improvement from 3 – 4 serious infections every year. “I’m not that sickly person anymore,” Susan says, delighted. “I’m at this new plateau of health. And it takes work to maintain it. But the LymphaTouch is what brought me here, and it’s what’s keeping me here”. Susan would recommend the device for anyway going through a similar struggle, even if they’re feeling sceptical. “You have to try it! Why not? What do you have to lose?”.