There was a version of myself that shuddered to think that needles sticking out of one’s skin could be therapeutic, much less enjoyable. I was baffled at the thought of it.

Now? Having faced cancer and chemotherapy and IV access dangling from my port for days, looking forward to a lifetime of lymphedema? If skinny needles promise some assistance, count me in.

Western medicine saved me from cancer, but gave me a (maybe) permanently swollen arm. Western medicine also has nothing to offer to reverse the condition. No pills. There’s no cure. Maybe Eastern medicine can offer some relief. The physical therapy I attend is lymphatic massage, compression, and stretches to tenderize the damaged nerve. Not exactly rooted in Western medicine.

Research shows that massage, compression, relaxation, and gentle exercise like yoga, tai chi, walking, swimming, are the best methods to reduce lymphatic swelling. I’ve been wanting to join a yoga studio for years. Now seems like high time. Maybe I can get a prescription and get health insurance to pay for some of it?

But acupuncture. I think I’ll give that a go, too. Historically, acupuncture and swimming were not activities I considered favorably. I will throw the kitchen sink at my symptoms to get it under control now. I am determined to have good quality of life, without complications of lymphedema. And happily, this change of heart does not come from desperation or fear. It comes from the many recent months of intensive exposure therapy, talk therapy, pharmaceutical therapy, and the support of my village. Look how far I’ve come!

By the way, my lymphedema diagnosis is very recent. My right arm is more swollen than my left; there is 202ml more of fluid in the right. Jo, my physical therapist, is confident anything under 200mls can be reversed. I have a compression sleeve to wear during waking hours, and I find it comfortable.

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