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Shoveling, shoveling, and more shoveling!

NatsFan
NatsFan Member Posts: 1,927
edited January 2021 in Lymphedema

Yikes!  Eighteen inches of snow before Christmas, a couple of 3-4" snowfalls, 27 inches this weekend, with a predicted 10-20" more starting tonight.  And it's only mid-February!

Unfortunately my husband just had a rib resection, and his surgeon has absolutely forbidden him to do any shoveling.  And we don't have any neighborhood kids wandering around looking to pick up a few extra bucks.  Sooooo, I've had to do all the shoveling.  I'm being careful, wearing my sleeve and gauntlet, and am just picking up small shovelfuls at a time.  Fortunately I'd started on a weight training program in September and had gradually increased to 5 pound weights, so I at least have some strength.  I take a lot of breaks, and just do what I can for as long as I can, and go inside for a while when my arm starts to feel heavy or tired.  I did get some help with a neighbor with a pick ax when I got down to the solid icy stuff at the base of the driveway that the snowplow had deposited, so that was a big help.     

Fortunately my arm is doing OK so far.  I know it would be so much better for me if I didn't have to shovel, but it is what it is.  Any other tips from experienced Snow Belt LE gals on what I can do to minimize the potential for a LE flare up?

If nothing else, I'm going to have some good looking Michelle Obama arms when this is all over!  Wink

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Comments

  • pj12
    pj12 Member Posts: 18,108

    Bless your heart for making lemonade from lemons ... or snow angels from a snowed over driveway. Your positive attitude is an inspiration.

    pam 

  • tweetybird
    tweetybird Member Posts: 399

    I didn't even think about wearing my sleeve for shoveling. I've been taking breaks as I've been going along, but Long Island hasn't gotten as much snow as you guys have. We're suppose to get hit with about a foot of snow tonight. I just hope it starts after I get home. I have a 4:00 appointment with my oncologist, and then a 6:00 physical therapy appointment for my right elbow that I fractured with the foot of snow that we got around Christmas. I guess I was lucky with that, since it was my right elbow, and that's my arm that is at risk. So far no swelling or problems, and it's been almost 7 weeks.

    If anybody has any other ideas, I would also like to hear about them.

    Good luck with this snow storm!

    Janet :)

  • Member_of_the_Club
    Member_of_the_Club Member Posts: 263

    Hey from DC!  Does everyone else feel sorry for us right now?  I do all the shoveling in my family, lots and lots this winter (and more to come).  I always wear my sleeve and glove when i shovel.  Also when I go sledding with my son because there's no way to anticipate if I will have to do some tugging or lifting.  No extra swelling but I have been concerned about sore muscles since the muscles I use shoveling aren't exactly the same ones I use weight lifting.

    One thing that helps is that I've continued to run, even with the snow (most days).  Tough going with so many sidewalks still unplowed but I've always found running wile wearing the compression garments provides a net benefit -- gets my lymphatic system moving the right way.

     Can't wait till Spring. 

  • C130sunshine
    C130sunshine Member Posts: 47

    Boy....my heart goes out to all of you in the north!  and I was getting frustrated with all the cold rain that I am getting.  Pj12345 is right......all of you are truly an inspiration with your positive attitudes.

    Come on Spring!!!

  • navygirl
    navygirl Member Posts: 369

    I am so regretting not getting a properly fitted sleeve. I tried the one I got after surgery but it's too small so I'm using an ace bandage to add extra support. We had 40 inches in our back lot and our driveway is about 150ft long! We did it in 2 hours sections but tonight I plan to drive my car up and down every 2 hours to pack the snow down, my arm and hand are still swollen a bit and very sore from this weekends snow. I don't know what else to do - so any tips or suggestions are welcome! I find that the snow makes great margarita's if you don't have a blender to chop ice with!

  • binney4
    binney4 Member Posts: 1,466

    Living as I do in the Southwest desert, I will politely keep my mouth shut about the weather.Innocent

    Navygirl, I'm sorry I don't remember this, but do you have a lymphedema therapist? If not, it would make sense to get a referral to one pronto. Here's a web page about finding a well-trained one near you:
    http://www.stepup-speakout.org/Finding_a_Qualified_Lymphedema_Therapist.htm

    ACE bandages are really not a good idea for an arm with lymphedema or at risk for it. The bandages used for lymphedema have much less stretch to them and are applied with a gradiant compression, so they promote lymph flow. ACE bandages are too stretchy and can bind in some places, especially with the exertion of shoveling, with the same effect as a blood pressure cuff of cutting off lymph flow instead of encouraging it. If you have a long-sleeved sport shirt (like Under Armour) or a leotard, wear that instead, only turn it inside out so the seams don't press into your skin. Isotoner therapetic gloves under your mittens can help control hand swelling until you can be fitted for a glove or gauntlet.

    Stay very well hydrated -- drink plenty of water as you work. Warm it up and stick it in a thermos and keep it handy.

    Stop and rest your arm often. Try some gentle stretches over your head and out to the side, make a fist one finger at a time and open it slowly)

    Keep your hands warm. Even with no lymphedema our hands swell as they "thaw out" after winter outdoor activities. For someone at risk of lymphedema, this normal swelling can really overtax the system, so keep your hands from the extreme cold.

    Elevate your arm when you come inside, and on pillows at night.

    I don't have to tell you to take deep abdominal breaths to help stimulate lymph flow, because shoveling will have you breathing deeply!

    If your arm or hand starts to ache or tingle, STOP AT ONCE and go inside and elevate it. Not, "just a couple more shovelfuls." Not, "just to the end of the drive." Just, STOP. It's not worth it.

    Good idea for using that snow, btw -- just stay away from the yellow snow!Tongue out

    Be well,
    Binney

  • enjoylife
    enjoylife Member Posts: 187

    I have been doing the electric pump every night and of course watching the salt intake which is a hard thing sodium is in everything. I wrap my arm at least almost every night sometimes if it swells in the middle of the night I find relief by holding my arm striaght up in the air sounds dumb but it must make it flow and its all doable. I also do my wieghts not heavy ones several times a week. I listened to Binny unfortunaly I live in a area we where there isnt a excellent PT and cant travel 100 miles to the big city so I get by. I do have a PT that I can go to once in a while even with ins. its too expensive for me and its either pay for it or keep warm that is why I do things like this my insurance paid for the pump 100% and I took it on a plane all the way to Boston to have my reconstuction last summer. With the humidty here I have a harder time with it in summer but I do push a lawn mower and i think the fibration silly as it sound helps me. I am going to try and shovel this week I am single so someone has to do it huh..and after being out of chemo 18 months I am one of the ladies who hasnt got her hair all back so I ahve to hide it with a hat, all the doctors say is they have never seen it and it must be from my family but i had so much hair before chemo and there is a bunch of us on the site who are in the same place ...Well just wanted to check in

    stay warm

    Maura

  • Tina337
    Tina337 Member Posts: 516

    I'm just outside Phila where we got 2ft.  DH shoveled over weekend, but after we developed a problem with ice damming and water entering through living room door, I forced myself to remove ice from the deck this afternoon.  It was the most exercise I'd had in a while.  In some ways, it felt so much better to be out there being active, contributing and doing what I'd always done.  I know I overdid it though.  Tonight after making dinner I had spasms in my chest on the side where I have capsular contracture.  I made a nice drink and put my feet up afterward!  Made sure I had a couple glasses of water as well.    

  • AnnaM
    AnnaM Member Posts: 136

    We got 32-and-a-half inches over the weekend on top of the 8 inches we got the week before. Right now it's coming down again and we already have an additional two inches. Hubs has a bad back and the dog is too short. I'm a bilateral girl. I'm taking it very very very easy. We go out (minus dog) and do 20 minutes of shoveling or so, then come in and play a game of cards. Obviously we can't do the driveway or anything big. We hired someone with a snow blower on Sunday and might have to do that again. What we did have to do is dig out one of our doors so we can get out of the house in case of an emergency if the power goes out and we can no longer go through the garage (electric doors). I figure as long as we take our time and I don't keep going too long I'll be okay. I clear out the dog's pee patch off the back porch just about once an hour; that way there's never too much and I don't get tired. Thanks for the reminder to drink, I tend to forget that at times . . .

  • navygirl
    navygirl Member Posts: 369

    Binney, thank you for the advice...I haven't talked to anyone about lymphedema because I didn't think I was at risk with only 2 nodes removed. This is the first I've had any trouble with it so I'm glad I came here because obviously I was going about it wrong :) I will follow your advice and if it becomes a problem again over the next 48 hours, contact my doctor for a referral. 

  • Member_of_the_Club
    Member_of_the_Club Member Posts: 263

    Navygirl you should contact your surgeon for a referral to a LE therapist.  It will probably take a few weeks to get in to see someone anyway, and there really is no downside.  the danger is that you find yourself in a situation that you feel you need to address on your own, like buying off the shelf sleeves that aren't right for you.  You have some swelling, you really need to get it checked out.

    I've been very happy with the LE clinic at INOVA Hospital, which seems like its far away (Good Lord, Virginia!) but its right off the beltway and I can get there fairly quickly. 

  • Member_of_the_Club
    Member_of_the_Club Member Posts: 263

    Actually, seeing your name I'm wondering if you are treated at the naval hospital there in Bethesda.  I would hope they have access to a good LE therapist.

  • Merilee
    Merilee Member Posts: 734

    We got about 6 inches and I am calling someone with a plow LOL

  • sushanna1
    sushanna1 Member Posts: 61

    I have lymphedema in my hand but have learned to manage it and only wear a glove and sleeve when it feels funny or I know I will doing something that puts it at risk.  I haven't had any problems in a while so I have been experimenting with very short bouts of shoveling (10 minutes), preceded and followed by m.l.d. (manual lymphatic drainage).  Looks like this is too much.  Doesn't bother my hand, but my p.t. noticed that there was a bit of fluid around my elbow.  Guess that it makes sense considering the activity.  So from now on, its back to the glove and sleeve.  Sigh.  Learned my lesson.   

  • kira
    kira Member Posts: 659

    I just want to second MOTC's comment to Navy Girl: ANY swelling deserves a complete evaluation by a qualified lymphedema therapist. It's like a little bit pregnant--once you swell, you unfortunately have lymphedema. It can be transient--you can swell once or twice and never swell again, but the tendency is there and the risk is there forever. A good LE therapist can teach you the tools to prevent any progression.

     I'm in RI and usually my husband shovels--and he's in Anguilla with a friend (feeling very guilty)--so I hired someone to plow....I'll do the walkways, with sleeve and glove and carefully.

    I can't link from this computer, but the stepupspeakout.org site has information on how to find a qualified LE therapist, and MOTC gave a recommendation.

    Kira

  • binney4
    binney4 Member Posts: 1,466

    Some great suggestions here -- thank you all! Hope you all can take a moment to enjoy the "winter wonderland"!Cool

    Navygirl, here's the reference Kira mentioned:

    http://www.stepup-speakout.org/Finding_a_Qualified_Lymphedema_Therapist.htm

    Lots of other pages on that site, too, that can help you know what to expect and how to proceed. As MOTC says, there's no downside to seeing a therapist. S/he'll take baseline arm measurements, give you some personalized risk reduction suggestions, teach you a gentle lymph massage you can use for prevention, and fit you for a compression sleeve and glove you can wear for exercise, travel, or any time your arm feels "funny." Let us know what you discover!

    Hugs (and a big mug of hot cocoa to warm you up!Kiss)
    Binney

  • NatsFan
    NatsFan Member Posts: 1,927

    Thanks, everyone!  I found that my technique is definitely improving with practice and I'm using much less upper body than I was at the beginning. 

    Ivorymom - I'm going to have to work on that hip snap thing you described. As a resident of Minnesota you've got to be a snow shoveling expert!!  It's funny, but my husband also enjoys shoveling snow.  He grew up in Southern California, and even after 28 years out here, he still thinks it's a really neat thing to shovel snow cuz he never got to do it as a kid.  If his surgeon hadn't put the fear of God into him about not shoveling, he's be out there and having a ball.  I love your avatar, by the way. 

    Navygirl - I have a great LE therapist at Holy Cross Hospital if you want a referral. And as MOTC says, your surgeon should be able to give you a referral.

    Binney - as usual you are a font of wisdom, even about snowshoveling, from your desert Southwest base.  Good thought especially on stopping IMMEDIATELY when the arm feels funny, and not after finishing the driveway or doing a couple more shovelfuls.  

    Tina - I hear what you say about getting out there and actually contributing the way I always have, instead of being the passive patient like I have for the last two years.  It's an empowering feeling. Also, my husband has taken such wonderful care of me during this that I feel good being able to return the favor and do something for him.  Hope your spasms relaxed.

    Anna - Yes, keeping the dog's pee place clear is a priority!  The Chihuahua is NOT happy with this weather at all.  She was especially unhappy when we lost power for most of the weekend and the house got down to 44 degrees.  We're just keeping our fingers crossed that we keep power today - we've already had 3 power blips this morning - yikes!

    I did a before-bed shovel of 3-4 inches last night, and just finished first morning shovel of the driveway and walkway - another 5-6 inches.  I'm resting now before going back out and doing the sidewalk next.  Wish me luck, ladies!!

  • Niknak0320
    Niknak0320 Member Posts: 2

    I'm right there with you girl from Southern Maryland...I have done some shoveling but thankfully we have an ATV with a plow and my husband has a bobcat that he has used on our very long driveway.  I was fitted for a sleeve last week...was supposed to get it this past Saturday but the appointment was closed because of the snow so I haven't gotten it yet :(  I haven't had any problems with swelling but the cording has gone past my elbow and into my hand :(

  • AnnaM
    AnnaM Member Posts: 136

    We've been doing more shoveling to keep her pee place clear than anything else today. Why oh why did we put it on the southwestern side of the house and why oh why is the blizzard blowing from the southwest? Oh, I guess that's where the storm is coming form.

  • Member_of_the_Club
    Member_of_the_Club Member Posts: 263

    This round has left DC and I shoveled our walk and cleared off the car, even though it isn't going anywhere anytime soon.  I grew up here and I've never seen anything like it.  We just broke the record for snowfall in a season, beating 1898-1899.

  • binney4
    binney4 Member Posts: 1,466

    MOTC, I'm not sure whether that calls for congratulations or condolences!Laughing

    (I have a son in DC who's digging his car out from under the snow and...a tree that fell over on top of it.Tongue out)

    WARM hugs,
    Binney

  • C130sunshine
    C130sunshine Member Posts: 47

    I agree if you have any swelling you need to get checked out.  I "only" had 4 nodes removed and developed stage 1 lymphedema.  I was able to get into a lymphedema therapist, so I got "treated" before it got any worse.  I now have a sleeve, but only need to wear it when I fly or if I start having problems.

    Binney - my heart goes out to your son.  My brother just moved to Take Tahoe CA from Destin Florida.  He is learning real quick on how to dig out his car......acutally since he is dirving other people into work....he has them dig out his car.

  • Member_of_the_Club
    Member_of_the_Club Member Posts: 263

    I'm glad the tree didn't fall on him, thats awfully scary.

  • tweetybird
    tweetybird Member Posts: 399

    Binny, That is so scarry with your son! Thank God he's OK. If we can ever get out of this snow, do you have any extra bed rooms? I'm so sick of the snow, and Long Island hasn't gotten as much as the DC area.

    I have family that lives in the Northern Virginia area, right by Dullus Airport, and they got 3 feet of snow on Saturday, and was expeciting another foot yesterday! I was going to head down there this weekend, but I think I'll be taking a snow check, since DC is still shut down.

    My right arm is a bit on the sore side today. I hope I didn't push myself too much yesterday with the shoveling. It's hard to tell if it's my fractured elbow acting up, or the lymphedema yelling at me to take it easy. Well, pichers and catchers report to spring training over the weekend, so spring is right around the corner!

  • navygirl
    navygirl Member Posts: 369

    Ladies thank you so much for the advice and links...Thankfully the swelling has gone down considerably with the exception of my fingers. I only did about 20 minutes yesterday and my arm started feeling heavy again, so I stopped right then and there - not, I'll just finish this section, I stopped. I elevated it and massaged as best as I could. My arm hurt awful when I woke up but it's not swelling, so that's a plus. I will get a LE appointment as soon as we are able to get around town. There will be no shoveling at all for me...if I can't get up the driveway, then it will have to wait or I'll have to ask the kids next door to do it! Maybe I can bribe them with a pizza or something :) I know LE is no joke so I won't risk it! 

  • kira
    kira Member Posts: 659

    Navygirl, there's a link to what to do while waiting for the first appointment--sometimes this computer doesn't let me link, but I'll post it.

    http://www.stepup-speakout.org/How_You_Can_Cope_with_Lymphedema.htm#while%20waiting

    What to do While Waiting for Your First Appointment with a Qualified Lymphedema Therapist

    DO NOT try and treat this yourself!!! Proper professional treatment is essential to getting control of lymphedema and preventing its progression. Treatment can be expensive and inconvenient, but this condition is life long, potentially disfiguring, disabling and possibly life-threatening (if you get an infection known as cellulitis) so professional evaluation and treatment as soon as possible is essential.

    1) Get evaluated promptly by your doctor to rule out other causes for the swelling in your hand/arm, and get a referral to see a well-trained lymphedema therapist;

    2) Drink plenty of fluids -- staying well hydrated helps dilute lymph fluid and keep it moving freely;

    3) Elevate the swollen arm or hand as much as possible during the day and on pillows at night; support the arm well so that it doesn't tire;

    4) Several times a day pause and do some deep breathing -- this helps stimulate the largest lymph vessels in your body;

    5) Raise hands over head as high as is comfortable for you, three times a day, and pump fists 20 times;

    6) Call for medical help immediately if you have severe pain, redness, fever or feel ill;

    7) You can try mild compression gloves  by either Sammons Preston or Isotoner® Fingerless Therapeutic Gloves if your hands and/or fingers are swollen until your appointment with your lymphedema therapist.  Be sure to bring them along to your appointment;

    8) Do NOT use ACE wraps or any other wraps without the advice of your lymphedema therapist after your evaluation and your treatment plan is scheduled.

    If you go to the page, it has links to the light compression gloves.

    What horrible timing, to have this act up during a historic blizzard!

    Kira 

  • NatsFan
    NatsFan Member Posts: 1,927

    The sun's out today and the snow is sparkling white and beautiful!!!!  I did a final shovel of the stuff from last night - the only bad part was the heavy snow plow stuff at the end of the driveway.  Since the mounds I've created from shoveling on either side of the driveway are over 6 feet now, and I'm 5'2", there was no way I could fling that heavy stuff on top of those mounds.  So I just took one shovelful at a time and carried it to where the mounds were lower and I could deposit it.  It took time, but it was so pretty out I didn't mind being out. My work is closed again today, so I have no urgency to be anywhere, so I took as much time as I needed.

    Binney - I'm so sorry about your son's car. I've seen a couple of pictures on the news like that.  I'm so glad he wasn't hurt.

    Navygirl - pizza sounds like an excellent bribe for the neighborhood kids.  If you have to in order to get help, swipe the cancer card - you know, "I'd do the shoveling, but I've had breast cancer that left me with a bad arm and I just can't do anymore." Look sweetly brave as you say it.  Used judiciously, swiping the cancer card can get you help when you need it!  Wink

    Tweety - I hear you on the pitchers and catchers reporting soon.  In between shoveling stints yesterday, I spent most of the day watching old baseball games they were showing on the MLB channel. I kept trying to pretend it was a warm sunny summer day outside!  I see you're in New York - are you Mets or Yankees? 

  • Member_of_the_Club
    Member_of_the_Club Member Posts: 263

    They will never plow my street.  Sigh.

  • scoobydoo
    scoobydoo Member Posts: 20

    Hi Navygirl and Natsfan.  I am another Washingtonian (Clarksburg, MD) just up the road from Rockville.  Luckily my hubby did all the shoveling.  I tried a little but was afraid of lymphedema.  I was supposed to start PT at Holy Cross today but it was canceled due to the snow.  Natsfan can you please tell me via PM who your PT is at Holy Cross?  Any recommendation is greatly appreciated.

    Anita

  • NatsFan
    NatsFan Member Posts: 1,927
    MOTC - I have a cousin who lives on a one-block street off 16th St near the MD line.  She saw her first snowplow late Tuesday afternoon, just as this latest storm was getting ready to hit.  They probably won't see another plow till this weekend.  She said it's no biggie for them not to be shoveled out as they have no place to go, but their neighbor was a bit panicked - the wife is pregnant and due in one week!  Surprised