So here is a story that is tangentially related to cancer/lymphedema … In late December I fell and banged my elbow. Yes, my RIGHT elbow. It was bruised for a while but I really didn’t think about it too much. It did not even occur to me to mention it to my lymphedema therapist when I was seeing her in regularly January.
But within the last month or so, the tenderness changed from a general bruise to a much more narrow area of sensitivity. The elbow became swollen, and I could feel something at the tip that did not feel right – like something in there that I could move around with my fingers. I procrastinated doing anything about it for a while (kinda sick of doctors at this point) but finally decided it was time.
So last week I had an appointment with a physician’s assistant at an orthopedist’s office. After examining my XRay she told me that I had not broken or chipped the elbow – thank goodness! Instead she told me I have olecranon bursitis – bursitis of the elbow (also known as “Liquid Elbow” which is the name of my new band). The reason it’s swelling up now, months after I banged it, is almost certainly because I stopped wearing my compression sleeve, LOL/duh!!
That was the easy part. As for the treatment, the PA said that normally they would drain (aspirate) the bursa with a syringe … but she had no idea if that should be done on an arm with lymphedema. She stepped out of the exam room – leaving the door open – to go consult with the docs. The conversation I heard went something like this:
PA: “I have a patient with olecranon bursitis, but she has lymphedema in the same arm.”
Doctor #1: “From a lymph node dissection?”
Doctor #1: “Hm, I’m not sure, that’s a new one on me. I know we’re not supposed to use a blood pressure cuff or start an IV on an arm with lymphedema, but I don’t know why. Doctor #2, have you ever encountered this before?”
Doctor #2: “Huh, no, I don’t know either. Have you asked Siri??”
I like a doctor with a sense of humor! I was laughing out loud when the PA came back into the exam room. I explained to her my understanding of the reason for no BP cuff or IV – because trauma can actually trigger lymphedema (bruising my hand is what triggered mine); and the skin wound from an IV or needle poke may take longer to heal or become infected. As I was leaving the office, I overheard the PA repeating this to the docs. Glad I could help!
Anyway … the PA and I both agreed that the bursitis is not severe enough to warrant risking anything that makes the lymphedema worse; and that COMPRESSION will help with the bursitis as well as the lymphedema. I guess I’ll kill two
birds problems with one stone treatment once I get the compression thing figured out…