June 13, 2005
September 2004 - 1B Cervical cancer discovered. October 2004 - radical hysterectomy + 33 lymph nodes, all of which were free of cancer. December 2004 - 28 treatments of radiation because of the size of the tumor (4 cm). Although I have sexual, urinary, and bowel difficulties, they are all getting better with time. I^m writing to inform other women about my latest side effect from the surgery or radiation: lymphedema. I was not told I was at risk for both blood clots and lymphedema after surgery and treatment even though I was treated at the reputable Mayo Clinic. If I had been told, I might have been able to avoid getting it. I want other women to know about lymphedema so they can educate themselves and lessen the chances of their getting it. Lymphedema is the swelling of one or both legs; if not treated early, it can lead to dire consequences. Treated early, it can be managed but in most cases, it does not go away with time; it^s a side effect many women must live with for the rest of their lives. Anyone who has had lymph nodes removed or has had chemotherapy or radiation is at risk for it. It can occur right away or six months after surgery (as mine did) or even up to twenty years later. I think most cancer survivors are eager to put their cancer experience behind them and move forward with as much normalcy as possible. When a woman (or man) has lymphedema, she or he must wear compression stockings, keep the leg up frequently, learn self massage, and keep the leg or legs from getting cut, bit by insects or sunburnt. In my case, one leg is a pant^s size larger than the other, so I have to go to the next size up (oh no!!!) All of these things are daily reminders of the cancer experience. So, take five minutes to Google "lymphedema," and educate yourselves so you can avoid one more bodily dysfunction. Take good care; remember - one doesn^t have to have cancer to die tomorrow. In a way, we^re the lucky ones; we understand this and can live life more fully because of it.