Sunday night my underarm started to feel puffy and uncomfortable but I didn't pay too much attention as that has happened occasionally and usually subsides within a day. But this time I was uncomfortable in the night and it was worse on Monday and tender into my chest. So between being really tired from not sleeping well and trying to keep my arm elevated (despite a still mostly frozen shoulder), I didn't do anything on Monday but recline on the sofa. No quilting ... no computering ... I just watched our great big tv. Despite that, my underarm was still puffy last night and again I didn't sleep well. By this afternoon, though, it's been subsiding and is now much less bothersome. What a relief. It's been a little demoralizing but my spirits are bouncing back already.
Puffiness in and around my arm makes me nervous because the threat of lymphedema still hangs over my head somewhat. Apparently between surgery and mostly from radiation, it can happen any time ... if it happens ... over the next 5 to 6 years. It seems there is still a lot to learn about the how or why of lymphedema, which is probably why the information about it is not very clear. There doesn't seem to be any way to determine who is at risk for it and who is not. Once recent study I read suggested it might be just the luck of the draw and which key lymph nodes get damaged or lost in surgery and/or radiation. Even if radiation totally zaps 6 lymph nodes, for example, maybe the key node or nodes necessary for draining fluid were spared and you won't get lympedema. But if one or more of those 6 were the main drainers, you will likely get lymphedema. The study suggested there might be some merit in adjusting or blocking the radiation beams (the same way they do for your heart) to prevent so much damage to lymph nodes.
What typically happens now is if you get lymphedema, you will be told that you should have done more to prevent it and yet there are not clear instructions on how to avoid it. And even for those who take precautions, they might get it anyway. And once you get it, there's no turning back from what I understand. It's kind of backwards the way they treat or don't treat lymphedema risk. One thing I've been reminded, though, is that I should NOT be lifting really heavy grocery bags! Not for several years yet.
The photo is of my fern in Movember.