One of the surprising elements of my mastectomy is how much it messes with the associated arm. I wasn’t allowed to lift my arm over my head while I had the drains in, and now I can’t even if I want to. This is a known change and so Dr. Engel gave me a prescription to the physical therapist. Because of the removal of lymph nodes, I also need to make sure that physical therapist is a lymphedema specialist.
I was supposed to see the physical therapist within two weeks of the surgery, but with Christmas and New Year’s between the surgery and my appointment, it ended up being a bit later than two weeks. This was just an introductory/measuring visit.
Amanda, the PT I met with, measured my range of motion in both arms for comparison. I had to stretch my arm as far as I could go lifting from the front and then from the side. I also stretched my arm behind my back as far as I could. Needless to say, my right arm didn’t do as well as my left, as you can see from the pictures below. In each, I’m reaching as high as I can with both arms.
Amanda also took measurements on the girth of both arms and hands. She measured at the knuckles, the wrist, and at 30cm, 40cm, and 50cm past the nailbed of the middle finger on both arms. If the right arm is significantly larger than the left, that’s evidence of lymphedema and I need to take steps to reduce the swelling. At this point, they’re nearly identical so I’m good so far. Even so, Amanda taught me how to do lymphatic massage to make sure all the fluid is moving out of my arm smoothly.
On a recovery note, I feel much better today than I did even two days ago. The fullness in my armpit is gone, as is much of the pain there. Now, the problems I’m having is in the chest muscle stretching over the expander. Still wearing the Ace bandage, but I’ve got a place to go to see if I can find a good bra. Things are improving, though, even if it isn’t quite as fast as I would like.