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What the Arizona wilderness taught me about my lymphedema

Back to blogging after a cross-country move and some amazing experiences.

Hello, lymphies!

I realize that my last couple postings have been riddled with promises to post more often followed by apologies when they go unfulfilled, and I’m embarrassed for not keeping up like I should have. This last year has been a hectic one: I moved across the country with no internet access for about six months and ended up in various transitional living situations, but in January I settled down at a new college to continue working on my degree.

I had every intention of picking the blog back up after the New Year, but… my college is very nontraditional in that it requires new students to participate in a three week orientation program: a backpacking trip through the Arizona wilderness.

I know what you’re thinking: “Three weeks backpacking in the Arizona wilderness with lymphedema? Is that safe?”

Granite Dells in Prescott, Arizona, where we went hiking and rock climbing.

Thankfully, they had an option for those of us who were medically or physically unable to participate in the trip, and our “community-based” option was still very active. We spent three weeks hiking, camping, canoeing, rock climbing, and sleeping under the stars – things I had very little experience doing prior to Orientation, because I used to think that I couldn’t do any of those things. I considered my lymphedema a limitation and believed that being active would actually harm it rather than help it. Even during the trips, I was worried about how my leg would handle all the walking, but – it did okay!

As it turns out, aerobic exercise – such as walking, bicycling, and jogging – can help improve circulation of both the blood and lymph, and can even aid in the movement of fluid away from the affected areas (LymphNotes). It helps to wear your compression garment during exercise, and to practice some manual lymph drainage in between your activities to get that fluid moving! If you are unsure of whether or not the exercise is safe, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor or lymphedema therapist beforehand.

All in all, I am so grateful to be at a college where I am encouraged to push myself physically and to get out of my comfort zone. My lymphedema always seemed like a reason not to do something, when really I can do whatever it is that I want – so long as I’m mindful of how my leg is holding up. Lymphedema is not a limitation. If anything, it’s a motivator for me to not miss out on all the wonderful, cool things that life has to offer!

I’m happy to be back, living the lymphie life!

The Superstition Mountains. Photo by friend Rafaelle Abramovitz.
The Superstition Mountains. Photo by friend Rafaelle Abramovitz.

16 comments on “What the Arizona wilderness taught me about my lymphedema

  1. It seems as though you’ve embarked on a spiritual journey.

  2. Wow, how ironic! Just noticed this e-mail and read it – SITTING OUTSIDE waiting for my first Lymphedema therapy consultation. This seems like such a mysterious condition, my regular physician & even the referring vascular specialist seemed to know very little about this condition. Hoping for some good news and help in alleviating swelling after this appt. I appreciate your blog, and if anyone can point me in the direction of more info about Lymphedema, that would be great!

    • I also write a blog on Lymphedema… And under my posts are a list of other blogs I follow on Lymphedema… Also search for Lymphedema People site or just search Lymphedema.. Quite a few sites will come up with info for you .. Even you tube has videos of MLD and Bandaging

    • That’s so cool! And yes – there are tons of lymphedema resources out there. Check out the links section on the blog for some good ones! :) Best of luck to you, Angie!

  3. Victoria O

    Angie – go to breastcancer.org and click on discussion groups. Go to all topics then scroll down to Lymphedema. You will find a wealth of info and others who can help you along!

  4. So glad to see that you are not letting Lymphedema define you… Yes go for it and enjoy life to the fullest..😃😃

    • Thank you, Helen! PS I added your blog to the list of links, under “Lymphies & Support” – hope you don’t mind! :)

      • Happy for you to share the link… The more people who read and learn from all of us the more awareness and knowledge we build.. Thank you 😃😃

  5. I am so excited you have found a path that shows you lymphedema is a siple speed bump and not a dead end. Thought of you recently …. Keep up the great self care and keep us posted..

  6. Sharon Brooks

    thanks for sharing, I agree that excerise is better than not for circulation and then manual drainage.

    good for you.


  7. Jim Miller

    Yes! Yes! Exercise (managed exercise done with your lymphedema in mind) is good for you. Hurray, Alexa. I feel so good for you. And is that Prescott College you are attending?

    • Thanks, Jim! So good to hear from you. And yes, I’m at Prescott College and it’s such an amazing experience! I feel so lucky to be here and to have the opportunities to be out in nature. I feel so at peace there.

  8. I discovered your blog last week and stretad follow your posts religiously. I have not commented on any blog just yet but I was thinking I would love to. It’s really exciting to actually contribute to a article even if it’s only a blog. I really don’t know exactly what to write other than I really enjoyed reading through 2 of the articles. Nice articles indeed. I sure will keep visiting your blog weekly. I learned quite a bit from you. Thx!

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