Personal Axillary Node Dissection Experiences
They take the lymph nodes out to find out how far your cancer is. If the lymph nodes is full of cancer, everyone they took out has cancer, that means your pretty late stage and then they give you a different dosage of chemotherapy. Mine was zero. I was lucky. The took seventeen out, none of them had cancer, so it didn't spread to the lymph nodes. So that's good news.
The first mastectomy they took 27 lymph nodes out of my left arm, and that made the recovery much more difficult. On the right side, they never took any lymph nodes and the recovery was much faster. I think I went six times to a physical therapist and we did all these exercises. There are marks on my bedroom wall. At first I could reach this high, and then I could reach this high, and then I could reach this high, and I never thought I would ever be able to do any of these things again.
One side effect of radiation or lymph node surgery is a condition called lymphedema. This involves swelling of the arm and the hand. Your arm is not draining and there's an accumulation of fluid. It was recommended that I be fitted for an elastic sleeve that hopefully would keep enough pressure on my arm to see that the lymph fluid was draining. That was not successful. Right now I'm using what they call a lymphapress. It almost looks like an air cast for your arm. It's hooked to a motor and it pushes the lymph fluid up your arm and into your back. I'm probably not as diligent as I ought to be in using it, but some women are sleeping with these on their arm every night. Some women are using them two hours day. Some women need to use them once every three or four days.
I went in for the lymph node, under the arm business. That was an overnight at the hospital, which again, is not a bad, you can't complain about going in the hospital at 10:00 in the morning and coming home the next day at 10:00 in the morning. I guess I wasn't a prepared for the long-term adjustment to the arm problems. I had a lot of mobility in my arm from the beginning. She's a very good surgeon. So the exercises that they gave me at the hospital to be sure I did have, were just easy. It wasn't anything at all. But I can tell you even now, I know that it's happened.