Diagnosis · Lymphedema

So here’s a long story

Between bald women on SNL, election day, and infusion #5, I have not had a chance to post this little side story about my hand. Yes, my hand; if it’s not one thing it’s another. If you’ll recall, during my mastectomy, I had a sentinel lymph node biopsy done on my right side. They removed three lymph nodes, one of which was positive, which is why I’m enduring the hell that is chemotherapy, and here we are.

The sentinel lymph nodes are the first nodes that the cancer goes to (which they find via injected dye), so if they only biopsy those nodes, it’s thought to be sufficient – they don’t need to take a whole bunch out. Which is good, because you need your lymph nodes. One of the potential side effects of removing lymph nodes is lymphedema, which causes swelling and fluid retention (please don’t Google that, it’s ugly). The chance of getting lymphedema with the procedure I had is low, but I’ve still been cautioned to avoid having blood drawn or my blood pressure taken from that side.

About a week before Halloween, I bruised my right wrist. I do not bruise easily; I don’t remember exactly what I did to it, but I do remember thinking, “Oh, that’s gonna bruise.” About a day and a half later, my wrist had swollen up, and my upper arm was stiff, with a pulling sensation (maybe “cording“?). I immediately assumed it had to do with the lymph node biopsy, but decided to wait to see if the swelling would go down on its own.

It did not, and eventually I called my oncologist, who passed me off to my primary care doctor (remember Dr. Hugs?). So started my crazy Monday: Dr. Cancer was out of town last week, so I had to see her backup on Monday at 7:45am in Rancho Bernardo for my normal labs and pre-infusion check-in. I then high-tailed it over to Torrey Pines to see Dr. Hugs about the wrist. Three weeks had gone by since I bruised it; the cording sensation was gone and the swelling was down, but it was still not normal for just a wee little bruise.

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I had Tad take a comparison photo of my hand while it was still swollen but it did not come out well; and I determined that taking a selfie of one’s own two hands is not physically possible.

After examining it, Dr. Hugs was extremely confident that it’s not lymphedema, because my arm was nowhere near swollen enough for that (remember, no Google!). She ruled other things out: called for an X-Ray just in case I’d broken something (it was just a freaking little BRUISE, seriously!?); and an ultrasound to rule out deep vein thrombosis  (nope).

Several hours later, my tour de medicine was inconclusive. The wrist is mostly back to normal by now. I know this is not my normal reaction to getting bruised, so Dr. House grumbling in my head still suspects something to do with the lymph nodes. There is a lymphedema class coming up in December; I  will keep you posted. Another day in the life…

3 thoughts on “So here’s a long story

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