Thursday, December 2, 2010

Ode to Your Nodes, This Will Be On Your Final Exam!

It's ok, don't be shy, we can talk about anything, right?  Let's talk about your lymph nodes and mine.
The Lymphatic System is the common name for the circulatory vessels or ducts in which extra-cellular fluid of vertebrates (lymph) is collected and carried to join the bloodstream. The lymphatic system is important because it:
  • Transports digested fat from the intestine to the bloodstream
  • Removes and destroys toxic substances
  • Resists the spread of disease throughout the body.

Important stuff.  So basically, your lymph nodes are like a sewage plant in your body, collecting the garbage that your cells throw out, cleaning it up, and returning it to your blood circulation.  Unfortunately, mine stepped in some cancer shit and so part of my cancer treatment involves cleaning up that mess.  Starting with chemo.  Done.  Then removal of my sentinel node and a few of my axillary nodes.  Now they toast them and light em up like marshmallows on the end of a stick.

My daily date with radiation continues, and in addition, I meet with my lymphedema therapist today.  Lymphedema is what can happen when you have lymph nodes removed, and the flow of lymphatic fluid gets interrupted and causes congestion and blockages.  Think of it this way.  You got six lanes of traffic on your freeway, and then you reduce the lanes down to three, but you still have the same amount of traffic.  Get the idea?  What happens if you get lymphedema?  You swell and ache and have limited mobility in that arm and hand.

I don't have lymphedema, although I am at increased risk because of my surgery, and additionally from radiation therapy.  The point of lymphedema therapy is to keep it from happening, if possible, and treating it if it does.  My first consultation with my therapist consisted of a review of my treatment since my diagnosis, charting my aches and pains, and an examination.  After the exam, she expressed my left nodes.  What's that mean?  It means she used gentle massaging techniques to try and get the flow going, and gently pushed some of it over to my right side so it could do some of the work for my left.

I was very surprised how gentle it was, it is not deep tissue massage.  It is surface massage.

Baby your nodes and don't let them sit in all that poop.  Did you know that deep breathing is a very good way for you to manually express your lymph nodes?  It gets everything moving and circulating.  Meditation and yoga are great for this.

So is moving your body.  Did you know that your big muscle groups put pressure on your lymph nodes and help keep the flow going?  Did you know that your main lymph vessels run vertically up and down your legs and arms?  Jumping rope is great for getting the juices flowing but can be very hard on your knees and ankles.

Ever heard of a rebounder?  It's a little trampoline, and all that VERTICAL bouncing and movement of your big muscles gets the lymphatic system pumping, with a lot less stress to your body.

Guess what else?  Restrictive clothing, including a poorly fitted too tight bra can severely restrict lymphatic flow.  Yikes.  Guilty as charged for years and years trying to contain those two fat bunnies!  Wah!!!!!!

Give your lymph nodes a present Sisters.  Take the time to go to a fitting specialist and get your bra sized properly, only wear cotton bras, and NO under wire.

Be good to your Nodes, and for gosh sakes, wear the right size bra!

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