Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Michelle Styles: The Importance of Paying Attention

Over the past few months, I have been learning about the importance of looking after yourself and not just to ignore things. In other words, my mother had a point.

The upshot after a number of tests was that I have lymph oedema (edema in the US) of my left forearm. The best guess is that it is due to an overloading of my sluggish lymph system. The most common cause of forearm oedema is the treatment from breast cancer so thankfully I have not had to cope with that as well. The most common place to get oedema is legs. Think swollen ankles that refuse to go down.

Oedema is controlled not cured. Controlling is several part process including moisturising, wearing a support sleeve and glove, exercise and massage. Losing weight also puts less pressure on the lymph system. The main complication of oedema is a tendency to get cellitus ( a particularly nasty infection which requires 2 weeks of antibiotics and sometimes intravenous antibiotics). Little cuts and breaks in the skin can become a big worry. But once oedema is known about, the treatment is relatively straight forward. It is all physical therapy led. Interestingly, oedema is not caused by water retention and simply cutting salt from your diet/ a low sodium diet while it might be good for other reasons, does not help with oedema.

Because oedema can be a symptom for many other nasties such as cancer, heart trouble and kidney, you have to rule them out first. Basically, if you are suffering from swollen ankles that do not go down over night , or one forearm that is larger than the other, see the doctor.

Repetitive strain injury to the arms, wrists or hands hurts and you have little movement. Oedema does not hurt and you can move. Oedema starts small and takes a long time to progress. You might not even notice you have it, particularly if you think you are gaining weight. But in reality you gain weight all over and not just on one side of your body. So if one arm or leg seems larger than the other, get it checked out. Without treatment oedema just gets worse.

To lessen your chances of getting oedema later in life:

1. Do not cross your legs.

2. If you have to stand for long periods, wear support hose. Put your feet up on a stool at night.

3. Practise deep breathing and laugh a lot.

4. Doing those exercises that they give you when are flying helps. And you can do them at the computer as well in the airplane -- particularly circling your wrists and touching your thumb to each finger and opening your hand up. It is about getting the fluid to flow.

5. Take regular breaks from the computer.

6. Wear gloves when you do the washing up and gardening. If it is cold out, make sure you wear gloves or mittens outside to avoid the risk of frostbite.

7. When flying anywhere, consider wearing support hose etc. Certainly do the in flight exercises.

You can find out other ways to prevent oedema developing here.


Much to my surprise and delight, I discovered that the second Roman set novel I wrote A Noble Captive is an April Harlequin Historical Direct and ebook. Currently it is on special offer at eharlequin.
The blurb reads:
Roman soldier
Strong, proud, honourable – Marcus Livius Tullio embodied the values of Rome. Captured on the high seas and brought to the Temple of Kybele, he was drawn towards the woman who gave him refuge.
Pagan priestess
Fierce, beautiful, determined – Helena despised all that Rome stood for. In sheltering Tullio, she had to subdue her awareness of him – or she might confess all! The soldier‘s strength and nobility tempted her to lean on him, but she knew that to succumb would be to betray her people …

You can read the excerpt here.

I am offering a signed copy of A Noble Captive (or if you have read it, another of my backlist)

The question I would like answering is What are the names of the heroine and hero? (hint: they are mentioned in the blurb).

Please email your answers to michelle at with March Tote Bags in the heading. I will draw the winner on 23 March.

UPDATE: Denise S was the first out of the hat and I have sent her an email confirming. Many thanks to all who entered.


Virginia C said...

Michelle, I am very sorry to hear of your health problem. I hope that you are finding some relief. Thank you very much for the excellent and timely reminders for people like me who sit a the computer all day. Thanks for sharing--take care of yourself!

gcwhiskas at aol dot com

Michelle Styles said...

Well if what happened to me helps it either get sorted in some one else or even better stops it from happening then the blog has been worth it.

It doesn't hurt but I did find my arm getting very tired before I started doing the exercises.
I find my energy levels are really coming back which is good.

Anne McAllister said...

Michelle, Thanks for your informative piece. I've just been dealing with my mother's heart issues, which have a side effect of edema. You're right -- knowing what you can do is very important and will help prevent nasty complications. I'm sure you will take good care of yourself.

Deb said...

Michelle, I am thinking about you and hope that you soon will have overall relief.

My mother has had cellulitis 3 times and was hospitalized with it twice. She has had stiffness and bone and muscle pain for about 9 months. She had Lyme's Disease, but this is all the after affects of the LD. She was just diagnosed with polymyalgia rheumatica. So, I hope your drs. are keeping a close watch on your symptoms and that they don't progress to my mother's leve. (There are days that my dad has to get her out of bed and lift her up from chairs, etc.) She is being treated and I hope that she soon sees improvement.

Take care.

Michelle Styles said...

Anne -- sorry to hear about your mother. Yes, oedema and heart problems are linked. I ended up being checked for that. And it does require lifestyle changes etc. I hope if she has arm oedema that she has an armband for when she goes in to the doctor's or hospital that says -- this arm has edema, no injections, drips or blood pressure. Apparently the stress balls are quite good for exercising the hands.

Deb -- I was sorry to hear about your mother as well. Luckily at the moment, I am learning to control it but I did see how bad it can get. It was enough to scare me into exercising. According to the therapist, she can tell if you don't do the exercises. I am getting measured every month...I am so hoping it will go down. I am just pleased the tiredness and heaviness is gone.

Virginia said...

Sorry to hear about your health problems. I hope everything works out for you!

Sometimes I feel like I am falling apart the older I get the more things hurt!

Pat Cochran said...

Honey and I are in our "golden
years" with lots what we call our
aches and pains. Honey's favorite
statement nowadays is "I knew that
getting old was not going to be a
lot of fun!"

I wish you and Anne's mother the
very best! Take care!

Christina Hollis said...

Michelle, I'm so sorry to hear about your problems. I've had cellulitis, and it's not fun. Your list is invaluable. As my daughter is undergoing tests for a heart problem at the moment, I'm going to make sure the whole family see your post.
Take care - and it's great news about your 'Noble Captive'!

Michelle Styles said...

I hope your daughter's problems are easily controlled. If the list helps, then that is wonderful! The more informed people are, the better they can make their decisions.

I know that cellulitis is not a good thing. A reader of mine's husband was in hospital last year with it and that was the first time I had really been aware of it. So when this happened, I went -- gulp and became determined to avoid it as best I can...
And although oedma happens mainly to older people (a virtue of living longer!), a fair number of younger people suffer as well. Genetics plays a part as does trauma.
It is one of the reasons why you have to wear surgical stockings when under going surgery.

Sue A. said...

Michelle, I think it is so good of you to share your story making people think twice about ignoring warning signs that seem minor or manageable without seeking medical confirmation. And I think it is important even them to go get a second diagnosis from another doctor, they're human too and fallible.

I hope you're able to manage your condition, take care of yourself.