My story begins before I was actually born. In 1974, just before her 4th son was to be married, my grandmother (“Gram”) was diagnosed with breast cancer for the first time. As was her manner, she decided not to tell anyone because she did not want to damper the festivities. Fast forward many years and many grandchildren and great grandchildren later; Gram was a 2-time breast cancer survivor as well as gynaecological cancer survivor. This woman was a real fighter.
While I was in Massage Therapy School trying to figure out where I wanted to take this new career, we began to learn about lymphatic drainage. It suddenly occurred to me that the chronic swelling in Gram’s arm might be helped. I knew that she always wore a compression sleeve on that arm, but I don’t think she was aware that treatment was available to her. By this time, she had long ago lost the use of her right arm and had learned to function with just her left. I told you, she was a fighter.
When I spoke to her about the treatment that I was learning and told her that something could have been done about her arm, her response was “I consider myself lucky to even be here. I lost the use of my arm but I am still alive.” While I thought this was a good attitude to have, it bothered me. I began to think about the quality of the years she did have left and felt they could have been better had she only known about the options available to her. This motivated me to find out as much about lymphedema as I could. Thus began my journey and the rest as they say is history.
Unfortunately, we lost Gram on May 13, 2009. I am forever grateful to her for setting an example of a strong, positive woman and for unknowingly setting me on my eventual career path. I am privileged to work with many other strong, positive women who are not only cancer survivors but cancer thrivers!