When you have breast cancer surgery that removes any number of lymph nodes and or radiation you have a higher risk of getting Lymphedema. Lymphedema occurs when too much fluid buildup in any affected area of the body. For breast cancer, it usually happens in the arm, hands, and chest. Your chances of developing blood clots in the legs are also increased. You can get lymphedema and blood clots one month after surgery and treatment or 10 years.
Unfortunately, I have developed lymphedema in my arms and breast. I’ve also developed blood clots in my legs. Which was attributed to a long flight in October or a fall in December when I broke my ankle. The doctors are not sure.
To help reduce the symptoms from worsening and recurring, I pack the following items every time I fly:
1. Compression Sleeve
My current sleeve isn’t as fancy as this one, but I am getting one of these. It is recommended you get measured for a sleeve, but honestly, I didn’t feel it necessary. My health insurance did pay for the one I have now. You may be able to get reimbursed if you order it online from your insurance company. I think because my lymphedema is mild in my arms I did not need to order a particular size. You can get it made to your specifications if necessary.
2. Compression Vest
As stated above you can get lymphedema in your chest on the side affected by breast cancer. A fellow breast cancer thriver recommended the vest. My physical therapist suggested I wear a sports bras and better support bras. The vest is good if you need more compression and the swelling isn’t going down. I recommend trying each out and see which works best for you. It’s very light weight and not bulky to wear. I would wear it even when I’m not flying because I already have lymphedema.
3. Compression socks
I know a lot of people wear compression socks for flying. I wear them sometimes when I’m not flying. After surgery, I experience more swelling in both my legs and feet. You don’t have to get pink but why not. I do have the basic black for everyday wear.
4. Pacsafe Hobo bag
Although I carried this bag before breast cancer, it is imperative to limit how much you carry on your shoulders on the side that was treated. I like this bag because you can wear it across your body and it doesn’t feel as heavy. It holds my laptop and sometimes my camera when I’m out sightseeing. My only problem with it is it’s a lot bigger than it appears.
5. Roller luggage
I know it’s all the craze to get as much as you can in a small carry on, but I haven’t quite mastered that yet. I have done it with the help of packing cubes, but my luggage was still too heavy because I had too much stuff. I like this bag because of the wheels, and it can take a beating from the baggage handlers. You also get a lifetime warranty. It’s much easier for me to push and I only have the one bag to carry.
There isn’t a sure way to prevent you from getting lymphedema. The breastcancer.org recommends you to protect your skin by keeping it moisturized and wear protective gloves when needed. It is also recommended that you protect your arm and hand from overuse or trauma. Be cautious of lifting heavy items. Avoid repetitive use of your arm and upper body activities. One last suggestion is to exercise to help build strength in the affected arm. Since I am not going to stop traveling, these items will help me be more comfortable when I travel.
Since I am not going to stop traveling anytime soon. I make sure to wear the about items and carry luggage to help reduce lifting heavy items. I also perform certain exercises that were given to me by a therapist.
For more suggestions on what to bring when traveling, check out my post “Travel Essential for Breast Cancer Survivors and Thrivers.”
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