This time last year, Lisa Curnow started undergoing therapy for Lymphedema at Balanced Body Physical Therapy. At the time she was fighting breast cancer. After having a lymph node removed during a bilateral mastectomy, she noticed her arms feeling heavy and swelling.
"I couldn't vacuum, clean, folding laundry, or taking laundry in and out of the washing machine...any type of repetitive task with your arms, I couldn't do anymore,"said Curnow.
The lymphatic system filters toxins from body fluids, so when a node is removed or the lymph system is damaged, fluid accumulates in areas like the arms, legs, or neck, causing swelling and pain. Lymphedema occurs in people who are born with a system or after cancer-related treatments, according to health professionals.
Experts say having Lymphedema is treatable, but it is a lifestyle change, something you have to be well disciplined with. It starts with complete decongestive therapy, which is a massage technique that pumps the fluid to a working lymph node. Jeannie Wagner is the only certified Lymphedema Therapist in the Upper Peninsula.
"We move the lymph fluid from the affected area into an unaffected area so that your body can process it. It can go back into the circulation," said Wagner.
Wagner adds that the patient will also need to incorporate daily massages, wear a compression band to stop the swelling, and do exercises regularly.
"I feel great; I'm cancer free. I'm able to get up and do whatever I want to. My daughter is skiing this winter with me. I'm moving on," Curnow said.