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?”
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!