Lymphedema patients find relief from painful swelling thanks to Bras for the Cause
A long, relaxing massage sounds nice. But for patients undergoing lymphedema therapy, the experience is far from your typical massage treatment. It is an opportunity to begin healing—to remove the pain and swelling most commonly associated with breast cancer surgery.
Living with lymphedema is a difficult reality for patients who are diagnosed with the condition, adding the to the long list of challenges that women undergoing treatment for breast cancer already face. In fact, the National Cancer Institute calls lymphedema "one of the most poorly understood, relatively underestimated and least researched complications of cancer."
Lymphedema refers to swelling that occurs in the limbs after a blockage to your lymphatic system. The lymphatic system can become blocked when a surgeon removes lymph nodes to determine if a cancer has spread. The signs of lymphedema can be easily identified through daily functions. For example, in women, signs include heaviness, aching and squeezing in the limbs. Shirts, watches and rings may not fit like they once did. Symptoms may begin a few months after breast cancer treatment or even a few decades.
While lymphedema can be controlled, it can never be totally cured. Assisting with that control is Hunt Regional Medical Center’s Certified Lymphedema Therapist, Jennifer Killough, who serves patients through therapy sessions using a technique called manual lymph drainage (MLD) that moves lymph fluid and by fitting patients with compression garments.
“Getting a person into compression garments is the ultimate goal of therapy. Lymphedema is a lifelong struggle, but with the aide of compression garments, the swelling can be managed,” says Killough.
“The garments work to continuously push fluid out of the arm into the remainder of the body, where it can then be processed. Without keeping the limb under proper compression, it will continue to swell,” she says, mentioning that not treating lymphedema can lead to additional problems.
Currently, Hunt Regional Medical Center is the only local facility where patients can receive lymphedema treatment. However, the cost of treatment and proper garments can be overwhelming. Thanks to annual donations to Janice’s Closet from Bras for the Cause, patients in need of financial assistance are eligible for the services provided by Janice’s Closet free of charge.
“Money raised from Bras for the Cause and what is given to the Hunt Regional Healthcare Foundation throughout the year go to fund all of the upper extremity compression garments we use for breast cancer survivors,” says Killough.
“In addition, they help fund mastectomy bras, post-surgery kits and much more. It is a great help since insurance does not currently pay for any of these items,” she says.
Janice’s Closet was founded by the volunteers of Bras for the Cause. With a staff of certified mastectomy fitters, the room provides prostheses, mastectomy bras, compression garments, wigs, treatment gowns and more for Hunt County women in need. All items are provided at no cost to patients.
“The Hunt Regional Healthcare Foundation is proud to partner with Bras for the Cause to provide Hunt County women with the recovery tools they need in a beautiful setting,” says Hunt Regional Healthcare Foundation Executive Director Alicia Wittkopf.
“We realize that difficulty affording post-treatment essentials can greatly impact a patient’s outlook on recovery and life following a breast cancer diagnosis. For that reason, we have made it our mission to supply those needs through the help of our generous Bras for the Cause sponsors and supporters,” she said.
This year’s event will be held Thursday, Oct. 9, when hundreds of decorated bras will be on display throughout downtown Greenville, once again bringing a community together for a great cause. To learn more about Bras for the Cause or lymphedema treatment or Janice’s Closet, visit www.huntregional.org/brasforthecause.