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Mar 10, 2019 05:01PM
One of the first things my lymphedema therapist told me was that the idea that women should never lift more than five pounds is ridiculous and unrealistic. We wouldn't be able to carry groceries, pick up kids, carry any luggage bigger than a small purse, or pick up a dog or even a small cat. It would be nearly impossible to get through day to day life without being able to pick up anything more than 2.5 pounds! You would need a personal assistant to help you all the time.
And she said that the latest research is showing that exercise, not avoiding exercise, has positive effects for women who do have lymphedema. She said that weightlifting and arm-related exercises are fine if you start out slow and increase the weight by small increments. What "start out slow" means will depend on each person, too. Someone who never exercised before might need to start out with one pound weights but people who were already in good shape or weight lifted before might not need to begin so low. I started out using gym items ranging from 5-15 pounds and moved up relatively quickly in some exercises and more slowly in others, just based on what I feel like my arm/chest can handle.
I had joined a Crossfit gym shortly before I started going to the therapist, and she was okay with that, provided that I increase the weight slowly and stop if my arm feels funny. She told me to wear my sleeve and glove at the gym but I'm a bad patient because I don't do it. Lol. I was already lifting a lot more than her recommendations without any problem so I ignored that too. (shh, don't tell her!) Moving your muscles helps move lymph fluid along. When I go to the Crossfit classes regularly, my hand swelling goes away and if I stop, it comes back. And there's been no overall change in my arm since she began measuring it, despite my illicit Crossfit activities. :)
Something else to consider is that you can develop lymphedema for no reason at all. I got it for no apparent reason. There were no triggers, no lifting a heavy object, no injuries, no airline flights. So avoiding exercise because it might cause lymphedema could make somebody less healthy and less mobile, and they could still get lymphedema! Cancer sucks....
Dx at 36 after several years of being told it was nothing. Lymph node biopsy was also positive.
3/21/2017, IDC, Left, Grade 2, ER+/PR-, HER2-
5/15/2017 AC + T (Taxol)
9/13/2017 Lymph node removal: Underarm/Axillary; Mastectomy: Left
1/15/2018 Tamoxifen pills (Nolvadex, Apo-Tamox, Tamofen, Tamone)
Whole-breast: Lymph nodes, Chest wall