For many, lymphoedema is an unknown word, something that fortunately they may never have to come across.
But for those that do, it can go from being an unknown word to a daily part of their routine.
Lymphoedema is thought to affect more than 200,000 people in the UK. When you look up the definition, lymphoedema is described as a long-term condition that causes swelling in the body’s tissues. It can affect any part of the body, but usually develops in the arms or legs.
Our lymphoedema team, led by Cheryl Brown along with practitioners Annabel Sansom and Jo Vella, provide care and encourage self management to patients dealing with lymphoedema, through specialist education and treatment, allowing them to manage their condition on a daily basis.
The most common form of treatment is using multi-layer bandaging and compression garments, which provide a firm casing for the muscles to work against to aid fluid drainage and limit the build-up of lymph fluid.
Roland Monger, aged 37 from Downderry in Cornwall was one such individual who had never come across lymphoedema. “It was a word I wouldn’t have been able to spell it and certainly didn’t know what it meant.”
That was until last year Roger became affected by it following surgery to remove a cancerous tumour. He tells his story, “In 2016 I had a diagnosis of skin cancer, which was quite a large tumour in my groin. When the tumour was removed they had to take some of the lymph nodes out, this resulted in the lymph fluid not been able to drain from my body properly in my right leg.”
Fiancé Gemma Turner added “After the surgery, my fiancé had an appointment with Jo at St Luke’s to determine if he had lymphoedema and the severity of it. Lymphoedema came as a shock to me, I’m an eternal optimist and in my mind, the tumour was out and that was that, so after speaking to Jo and finding out his condition was forever, was a shock.
“I have to admit, I didn’t know what to expect before our first meeting with Jo, I’d never been to St Luke’s and I was expecting quite a depressing place. I was relieved to be completely wrong about that. We sat in the café admiring the views and spotting all the Plymouth landmarks while waiting for the appointment. Jo was lovely, we were both nervous, and she put us at ease immediately, she explained everything she was doing and gave us so much more information about the condition and how to manage it. We left feeling much more confident about the future.”
Roger adds: “I now wear a stocking which I have to come up to St Luke’s to get checked. This allows the leg to be compressed and the lymph fluid to be pushed and to exit my body correctly, so my skin stays healthy and my system work properly.
The nurses have been fantastic at giving me solutions that work with me. I know quite often some of the patients they work with are older than I am and haven’t got chunky legs like I have. They have had issues to get the stockings to fit correctly and stay up, but they don’t just stop and say put up with what you have got, they keep measuring and adjusting to find solutions.”
“In the past I have always donated to St Luke’s. To actually see where the money is going and what it is doing is really powerful. So if you have a friend or a relative that needs to come here for treatment, maybe volunteer to bring them up. There is a really nice café, great view of Plymouth and it might just help you understand where your money is going and where that support helps.”
St Luke’s lymphoedema service is provided on behalf of the NHS, 37% funded by the generous support of St Luke’s supporters. As well as their service at Turnchapel, the team run a clinic on the first Friday of every month at Tavistock Triangle Centre and every other month at Kingsbridge Hospital Triangle Centre.
Read more about Roland’s journey online via his blog: https://ididitsite.wordpress.com/