I had to have a lumpectomy and a partial (level 2) lymph node clearance. The affected breast almost doubled in size right after the operation. Initially I was told some swelling was to be expected. When the swelling didn’t recede after some weeks, I was finally diagnosed with lymphoedema. At this time I was given no advice on how to deal with this. Eventually I saw the lymphoedema nurses who suggested various approaches, none of which made any significant difference to my condition.
I was never offered a compression garment (which is standard treatment if you have lymphoedema in one of your limbs), I was not given any treatment options. It was suggested I buy a new bra. Despite being fitted by a sales rep who specialises in women post breast cancer, the bra was very uncomfortable, and I stopped wearing it after a while. I bought two or three more bras. None of them was comfortable, quite the opposite: they seemed to make matters worse by squashing the breast together rather than supporting each breast individually.
Things started to improve when I paid privately for Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) and attended exercise classes, including Yoga and Tripudio. After over a year of treatment, the swelling has now gone down considerably but has by no means disappeared.
5 months after my op one of the GPs at my local surgery suggested I search for a compression garment online. There was a lot of choice there. After two failed attempts, I finally obtained a compression vest that works for me. I wear it every day.
I wonder how much discomfort, time and money I could have saved if I had worn a compression garment straight after the operation, had started MLD treatment earlier and been taught to do the correct sort of exercises from the start.