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Lymphedema Reduction – Chasing The Setting Sun

I’m not a morning person at all. I know, I know, studies show that we should exercise in the morning when our cortisol levels are the lowest. Well, all due respect, Mr. Researcher, I ain’t doin’ it. I need my anti-inflammation sleep.  It really depends on how well I have slept the night before.   Sleeping with lymphedema is not always easy.  For many of us, shooting pain, tingling, and other symptoms are experienced at night.  Not to mention going to the restroom in nighttime garments is very awkward.

I prefer to workout or walk in the evenings. I like to chase the setting sun. A beautiful sunset to me is a sign that the day is almost over. Sometimes that means I’ve survived another day filled with pain. It’s an accomplishment, and it gives me a sense of peace.

This past week was week 3 into Complete Decongestive Therapy (CDT). This means I’m wrapped like a lymphedema burrito 23/7. Hold the cheese and onions.

Part of CDT includes self care and exercise. My CDT homework this week was to work my calf muscles to pump the lesser saphenous vein which travels right smack down the center of the gastrocnemius muscles. Two muscles perfectly placed to #movethatlymph when activated. You know the line from the Justice League® “Wonder Twin Powers, ACTIVATE!!”  I found this out just this past week!

I do not own the source of this image. It is a random calf anatomy photo.

So, I’ve been working hard on this on the treadmill in wraps on 2-10% incline. Then the other night I walked 3.02 miles in bandages and post op shoes. Y’all know I’ve done 5Ks before, and all of these runners were passing me. They had such beautiful legs, and I became very envious.

Not really envious of their physique per se, but that they were free of constraints while I literally felt like my legs were in a straight jacket.


It’s tough to walk in post ops with bandaged feet. I wanted to bust out of them right then and there and run in the grass barefoot and carefree. For someone like me, that’s very unwise. I could get a cut which might lead to a cellulitis infection and wind up in the hospital. Plus the whole point of the darn wraps is to reduce my swelling.

It took me 1:18 hours according to my Apple Watch, but I finished. Just as that beautiful sunset went down.  Actually, it was dark by that point. I was sweaty and sticky when I got home, so I took my wraps off to take a shower. This is what happened next.

I saw my right ankle bone, and I began to cry.

This was the first time I had seen my ankle bone in MONTHS.  I said “Hello, OLD FRIEND!!!!!”

Then I saw both legs side by side, and the waterworks really started. I’m so thankful my legs still respond to treatment. Week 3 into CDT, and this is the most reduced I have been in a long time.

My husband came into our room and said “Wow, great job!”  Then he said “One of these days you won’t need these anymore.  I have faith.”  Then the waterworks really started.  I curled up in his arms and fell asleep.

I know that some of you might be thinking “I wish my limb would respond to treatment.” Or “You are not that bad as far as the size of your limbs.”

That’s true.

I am also racing against the clock and aging process, because I know what my father’s leg looked like in his 60’s.  May he rest in peace.  If I’m blessed enough to even live as long as my father, that means I have at least TWENTY MORE YEARS of management.  It’s either doing this or wait for a cure.  Which do you think will come first?  The fact is that none of us know what tomorrow will bring.  I don’t know if and when my body will stop responding to this type of therapy. I am personally hopeful and prayerful, but I choose to bandage both legs in the meantime to stop the progression as much as humanly possible.

Game Changers this Round

  • Diaphragmatic breathing – 30 min everyday
  • Huge sugar reduction, working hard towards Keto
  • Calf pumping – Treadmill work in wraps on 10% incline

Next goals are truncal lymphedema reduction.  (Remember I have LE in three areas.)  We will keep on keeping on.

Wishing you great lymphatic health.  I hope that you are pain and cellulitis free. Have a great day!

Lymphie Strong

1 comment

  1. I tried KETO for 3 months but the salt caused swelling and leg cramps and ultimately inflammation in my lymphy legs and joints. I upped my potassium, magnesium, and vitamins. The muscle cramping became minimal but I also had gallbladder surgery years ago and had problems with the amounts of fat causing nausea and bowel movement problems. I didn’t have any problems with being sugar-free or gluten-free. (I have problems with gout caused by a dr putting me on diuretics… which lymphedema patients can’t tolerate and it caused a severe case of gout which in turn caused me to follow a gout diet.) I also started losing my hair and my nails started becoming brittle. I had never had these problems before. I’m not certain what caused this.

    I have learned that it is really a fat vs carb war. I need to burn the fat so need to drastically reduce the carbs. I want to keep working that angle but now I’m having to lower the 3 fat to 1 protein ratio. I just can’t do that much fat. I have kept the protein and carbs the same but have added more chicken and beef broths heavy with butter or the fats from the meat in the broth in place of bacon and bacon fat. Although I enjoyed bacon, it was just too much for my “lack of a gallbladder disease” to handle. I had only lost 4 pounds in those three months… I believe this was because of the inflammation caused by the salt and fats… but in the week and a half on this new program, I have lost another 5 pounds. Unfortunately, I blew the whole thing this weekend. My family had our Thanksgiving meal and although I could have done far worse then I did, I’m sure I gained some back. For me, it takes a year of food maintenance to lose any weight and one meal to gain it back but I refuse to be filled with guilt. I’m going to get back on the program and stay on it until the Christmas meal, then do my best and get back on it the day after. The main thing is my body has to be retrained to burn fat not calories.

    This is a work in progress but I think this KETO way of eating is the best way for everyone but especially Lymphedema patients to lose weight and get rid of inflammation caused by sugars, processed foods, fast food, and unhealthy life choices. I’m going to anxiously look forward to the changes it’s going to make in my body. I hope you are successful with it too.

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