Pregnancy has been amazing. I really can’t complain. Sure, I’ve had morning sickness, fatigue, heartburn for days, insomnia, on and on. But really, compared to what I’ve been through – this is nothing.
But there has been cancer related challenges. Mu surgery in 2016 to remove a football size ovarian tumor, I also had lymph nodes removed. Lymph nodes are small glands throughout the body. They work as part of the immune system circulating fluid (containing white blood cells) around the body. Lymph nodes are often a major site of foreign substances and infection and is often where spreading cancer can be found - helpful in staging cancer and determining treatment.
During surgery, lymph nodes are taken from the places that a specific type of cancer is thought to first spread. For my type of cancer, both aortic (surrounding the heart) and left groin lymph nodes were removed. If you have undergone a surgery to remove lymph nodes, you know there is inevitable lymphedema.
Lymphedema is when one (or both) arms or legs are swollen because of the removal of lymph nodes. The fluid cannot properly drain and circulate and swelling is the result. This is my problem, worsened with pregnancy.
Since my surgery, I’ve had problems with lymphedema in my left leg. Before I was pregnant – mild swelling really – nothing major. But intense dryness! My heel is constantly cracked and peeling. There is also some color changes (mottling) and changes in temperature (my left leg is always a bit colder). Additionally, I’ve always had problem with my large toe. The dryness results in skin build up and inflammation. It’s constantly irritated. It’s just as disgusting as it sounds.
Since being pregnant, things have worsened. The swelling in my leg has gone to another level. Elephant trunk leg now. It’s not surprising as many women have swollen ankles (or swollen everywhere) during pregnancy but in my case, it’s unilateral (one sided), which makes it alarming so to the emergency room.
When you have one sided swelling, the main concern is a blood clot. Something I am all too familiar with (Click here to read my blog post on blood clots). Fortunately, this was not the case for me but is an ongoing threat moving forward. Your chance of having a clot is raised during pregnancy and is even more raised in the post-partum period.
For now, it’s back to blood thinners to ensure I stay clot free. Happy to be on blood thinners because I hate clots!