Sometimes life does not go as planned!!

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I am sure that those of you who have followed my blog over the past couple of years will wonder why I have not done an update of my own progress. March 2015 was the two-year anniversary of my Lymph node transfer and I am very happy with the results, not a cure at this stage but a huge improvement. There will be more on this later…

The reason for my lack of posting is I have been very ill with another late stage effect of radiation and cancer treatment. I started to experience weakness in my legs, I had falls, my legs felt numb combined with pins and needles,(peripheral neuropathy) gradually it became harder to get up stairs and to walk in general. December 2013 was my first appointment with a neurologist…. 2014 was a very difficult year, full of doctors appointments many, many tests, scans, a biopsy, neurological tests etc. I was seen by two neurologists, an immunologist and also visited a Clinic that specialized in Functional medicine.( Combining alternative medicine and conventional medicine).By the end Of 2014 I was given the diagnosis of Radiation Induced Lumbar Plexopathy, a very, very rare and untreatable side effect of radiation that leads to paralysis of the legs due to damage to the nerves in the Pelvis. http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/316604-overview#a0101 Women who have had Breast cancer treatment can get Radiation induced Bracheal Plexopathy which leads to weakness or inability to use the arms and hands.

The first three months if this year was spent in hospital, doing intensive neurological rehabilitation, in the hope of regaining the use of my legs. Sadly this did not happen. While in hospital I learnt to use a wheelchair, and everything else I would need to manage with paralysed legs. We have had to sell our house and we will be moving into a home that is wheelchair friendly. Thank goodness for the help of those physios and occupational therapists who got my life back on track while I was in hospital. You can imagine there has been many tears coming to terms with this and I never imagined I could have something healthwise that was worse than the Lymphoedema!!!

It is very hard for me to write this, only 0.16% in 1000 of those who have had pelvic radiation  get this side effect. It can happen from 0-30 years after the radiation. It is difficult to get information and to connect with others but via the internet and the American Cancer Society I have connected with a couple of ladies. This is certainly not something they tell you about when you are having Radiation!!! No I am not starting a new blog at this stage, or trying to build awareness of this side effect!!! All my energy goes to getting through each day and learning to live with my new “normal”.

However even with all this the Lymphoedema journey still continues with I feel good results. Due to my illness I had to withdraw from the research program at Macquarie University Hospital Sydney as I could not have the MRI or Lymphoscintigram done. The measurements would also all be effected due to the muscle wasting of the legs, due to lack of movement. Since the start of the year I have not worn compression stockings, they are difficult to get on and uncomfortable on the sensitive nerves in my legs. Surprisingly my legs have stayed really good without compression. They are soft all the time, a bit of swelling in the ankles goes down over night and I have had no cellulitus since the surgery in March 2013… My lower leg is the same size as my good leg and the thigh a little bigger but does not get worse. Maybe a transfer to the groin as well as the one to the knee would have helped this but there will be no more surgery for me now!!!!

One of the things that is important for Lymphoedema is movement so on the recommendation of the rehabilitation doctor in the hospital I got a MotoMed machine http://abilityinmotion.com.au/products/movement-therapy/motomed/ This has been the best thing I could have done for the Lymphoedema and for my paralysed legs as it keeps the muscles moving and keeps the circulation going. I am unable to peddle, so the motor kicks in and I can do 25km of passive exercise plus I usually do 5km of active exercise, with my arms, for the upper body. This and deep breathing every day helps to keep my Lymphoedema in order, plus I elevate the end of my bed at night to help any swelling. Even the ankle on my good leg swells a bit sitting in a wheelchair all day, so there is double reason to look after my circulation.

I intend to keep this blog going and to share people’s stories and their progress. It has become quite a useful resource for those going ahead with surgery for Lymphoedema. Over the past two years I have noticed an increase in those having LNT and Lymphatic Bypass surgery, LVA, plus Lymph sparing liposuction to help their Lymphoedema, in both arms and legs. I think we are yet to find a 100% cure but there appears to be improvement, how big the improvement depends on the condition of the limb pre surgery and the care given post surgery. It can also take a number if years to see the ultimate response to surgery. Please keep sending me you stories and adding your comments to the posts, it is this sharing of knowledge that helps. Of course non of this replaces the advice of the surgeons who are looking after you, I am also glad to see that some of them are collect data on their results.. This is so important for the future…

Thank you to all of you who have supported me in the past year and who were aware of my problems, you have made it all a little easier to get through. Everyday for me is now a new experience……

If you would like to contact me please send an email to helenbrd@bigpond.net.au

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