by Heather Rutherford, breast cancer survivor and Bloomhill lymphoedema services client, March 2022

I survived breast cancer that was diagnosed 50 years ago, when I was 32. I am now 83. I didn’t just survive; I went on to live a full life.  

I’ve seen my two sons grow up and have five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, after surgery and radiotherapy successfully removed the cancer. 

There were lasting impacts of the treatments on my health, including what we now know to be the condition, lymphoedema.  

More than 10 years after surgery, I noticed one arm was larger than the other, and the swelling got worse and painful. My clothes stopped fitting.  

The condition of lymphoedema was little known in the 1980s, and I struggled for eight years before finding any help that worked.  

I tried some things to alleviate the pressure and the pain. 
For some time, I had a hook in the ceiling above my bed, so I could sleep with my arm elevated in a sling. Compression and elevation were the remedies, I was told – but found out later this was very bad for my condition. It really was desperate times.  

As science caught up with the condition and treatments became more effective, I became involved in various therapies.  
Manual lymphatic drainage by a specialist massage therapist has been the most effective.  

It’s amazing how far science has brought us – we’re so lucky to have proven treatments now, which really do help, and improve quality of life.  

The use of a Lympha Press to mechanically aid the therapist with a sequential peristaltic motion had been a great recent addition to lymphoedema clinics, and Bloomhill has one of these.  

I have specialist massage at Bloomhill every month to manually drain lymphatic fluid from my problem arm. It keeps on top of it for me. 

It is just wonderful what Bloomhill provides. It’s not just the physical aspect – although that part is extremely helpful to me. It’s the way Debbie and the care team treat you as a whole person.  

I’m delighted to be able to share my story as part of Bloomhill’s celebration of Lymphoedema Awareness Month.  

I hope it helps others, and hope that if you have the means, you will consider donating to this gem of an organisation we’re lucky to have nearby.  

To find out about Bloomhill Cancer Care's lymphoedema services please click here.

To donate to Bloomhill's Lymphoedema Awareness Month Appeal this March, please click here. Your donation will make a difference.

Author: Heather Rutherford Images: Heather at Bloomhill Wellness Centre by Nicky Moffat, and Heather with two of her grandchildren, contributed. Published: February 28, 2022