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Lymphedema Woes: Part 2

It was four years after my mastectomy when I noticed something strange.
PUBLISHED: AUGUST 10, 2017
In 1990, four years after my mastectomy, I had a hangnail on my right hand, the same side as my surgery.  

I did what I always had, which was to run the finger under hot water until the little infection was gone. But this time it didn’t go away. The red was gone, but the pain was still there, and when I stuck a needle in it to drain the area, a little bit of pus came out.  

So I did what most of us do when we are too busy to go to the doctor, I ignored it, thinking I would show it to my support group and see what they did in this situation. That weekend I was giving a baby shower for a friend and as I was preparing some of the food, I was aware that my hand hurt. Hmm, I thought. That is strange.  

No connection to the hang nail registered.  

After the baby shower was over, we took friends out to dinner. My hand still hurt, but the ache had moved up to my elbow.  

Still, no connection to hang nail registered.  

By the next morning, my arm was swollen and red, and I felt terrible. It had been only 48 hours and I knew I was sick.  

All of a sudden I remembered what my surgeon had said four years earlier about caring for my arm lest I get a condition called lymphedema, a swelling of the lymph nodes as a result of infection.  

The shower was on Saturday and on Sunday night, I called my surgeon who called in a prescription for something really strong and told me to come into the office first thing in the morning.  

On Monday morning, I was so sick that I forgot my purse on the way to the docs office. I told my husband I was sick, really sick. When we arrived at her office, she took one look at my arm and said that we were going to walk over to the hospital and get me on antibiotic IV. Whew, I remember just nodding. I was so sick  



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Kathy LaTour is a breast cancer survivor, author of The Breast Cancer Companion and co-founder of CURE magazine. While cancer did not take her life, she has given it willingly to educate, empower and enlighten the newly diagnosed and those who care for them.
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