When I had my surgery back in September the doctor had to remove two lymph nodes to determine if my cancer had spread. Thankfully, my lymph nodes were completely clean!
What I never realized was that removing two lymph nodes would leave me with a reason for a medical alert bracelet!
Let me start with a brief description of what the lymph nodes are. All throughout your body you have these bean-shaped nodes. They are part of the immune system and act as a filter. The lymphatic system also contains white blood cells that help your body fight infection. Everyone has a different number of lymph nodes under their arm. The breast empties fluids through what is know as a gateway. One fluids pass this gateway they enter the lymphatic system and circulate through the body. Just like bad cells in the lymphatic system there are white blood cells that circulate through the body to fight infection. The lymphatic system is critical to immune health! It is why when you are sick you might have swelling in your neck, under your arm, or anywhere else that infection is present.
I recently learned that my cancer had spread to within the lymphatic system of my breast, but never made it to the “gateway”. The cancer was in route to the exit and has it gotten through the “gate” could have quickly spread through my entire body. This is one of the reasons my oncology team has been so aggressive in my treatment. They want to make completely sure nothing got through.
With the removal of the two lymph nodes under my right arm, I am at a greater risk of lymphedema or swelling associated with a blockage is the lymphatic system. This can be painful and cause circulation issues. Due to this risk, I cannot have any type of tourniquet on my right arm. They cannot use that arm to draw blood, give shots, or check mu blood pressure. I am able to tell doctors this, but if something were to happen, medical staff would need to be aware. For this reason I ordered a fun medical alert bracelet.
Before my surgery I had no idea this was a thing for breast cancer patients., cancer patients in general. I am not a medical professional and Googled info to write this blog. This is my layman’s understanding!
Did you know this was a thing or did you learn something new? What else would you like me to talk about in future blogs. Comment below and let me know!