“It’s a miracle.”
That’s how Marlene Gakle of Beatrice describes how lymphedema therapy helped her get her life back.
Marlene knew the swelling in her feet and legs wasn’t normal but nothing prescribed during the past decade seemed to help -- until her provider suggested she try lymphedema therapy – a therapy only recently added to the services of the BCH Rehabilitation Department in 2020.
She started therapy in October and by Christmas was able to tie her shoes again, stand at the kitchen counter to cook supper, and walk.
Lymphedema or “chronic swelling” is a lifelong, chronic and ongoing condition that can occur as a result of cancer treatment (including removal of lymph nodes), surgery, radiation, vascular insufficiency, infections, and wounds, according to Marlene’s Occupational Therapist, Nicole Jones. Left untreated, Nicole said, lymphedema can lead to cellulitis (a painful bacterial skin infection), open wounds, pain, and poor mobility.
Marlene, at age 85, had had her share of surgery for broken bones, including ankles, hip, arm, and wrists. She’s undergone two knee replacement surgeries and survived breast cancer.
Even though it took more than a year to make the connection between the swelling in her legs and lymphedema due to her surgeries and radiation, the therapy produced quick results. The therapy involves a special kind of massage by a certified therapist that works out the swelling, and the use of compression socks and wraps.
“I lost 13 pounds of fluid,” Marlene says. “It’s a miracle.”
Marlene encourages anyone who thinks lymphedema therapy may be helpful to contact their doctor.
“If there was any possibility, I was going to do it,” Marlene says. “And it was so easy; I just relaxed and let Nicole do the work on my legs.”
Marlene says she wears compression socks daily as well as an additional wrap on one leg.
Fully retired for two years now, Marlene says the lymphedema therapy has allowed her to return to her gardening, sewing, decluttering, scrapbooking, and the volunteer work that she loves to do.
“I’m not ready to slow down yet,” she says. “This has given me my life back.”