Lymphedema

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“I was mad at getting stuck with this, thinking was this not enough? Was the cancer not enough?”

Julie Veith was diagnosed with breast cancer nearly 5 years ago and at the end of her chemotherapy, she encountered another obstacle.

Julie Veith says, “I noticed one of my arms was bigger. I was hoping it was just an injury or something but it stayed for a few days so I reached out and started physical therapy right away.”

The condition in her arm, called lymphedema, was continuing to progress. Veith says doctors warned her she could develop the disease as a result of her breast cancer having spread to her lymph nodes she had 16 of them removed.

It’s common in those who have gotten lymph nodes removed as part of cancer treatment.. and causes swelling in an arm or leg… Along with pain.

Julie Veith says, “you can get infections in your limb and with that your body doesn’t know how to get rid of the infection because you don’t have those lymph nodes anymore.”

She knew treatment options were limited, and was starting to lose hope. Until she found dr. Wei Chen in Iowa City specializing in lymphedema surgery.

She flew out for some testing and qualified for a vessel transfer surgery.

Julie Veith says, “They remove lymph vessels and skin in my groin, and attached it to my arm.”

Veith says the success rate of seeing improvement is in the high 90’s but the recovery has taken some patience.

Julie Veith says, “I could see improvements from the surgery for up to 2 years, so it’s a marathon not a sprint.”

And she has advice for any other breast cancer survivors watching.

Julie Veith says, “Don’t think ignoring it is gonna make anything disappear. It’s not gonna happen that way.”

Julie says she’s doing well and still no evidence of disease with her breast cancer.

She is also working with a therapist now for her arm.

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