Can I go camping if I have lymphoedema?
Ah! the great outdoors. It is good to get away from the routine, from the city and the noise of a busy life. For me, the great outdoors means camping in the shade of a tree or near the beach, and the possibility to do all sorts of activities like canoeing, bike riding, walking and of course swimming or just enjoying the water and the beach.
"But what if I have lymphoedema, can I still pursue these simple pleasures?" Yes, absolutely! You can live your life to the fullest. You can do whatever your heart desires. To be safe, it all depends on your level of fitness prior to the treatment, being surgery, chemotherapy or radiation. The fitter you have been, the quicker you can rehabilitate your body to do common tasks. There is something like "muscle memory" and it helps to get back into shape quicker. The common advice if you have or are at risk of developing lymphoedema is to ease into your activity and increase the intensity slowly. You need to take "baby steps" and enjoy every one of them. You need to take some precautions like wearing sunscreen, insect repellent and wear your compression garment while exercising. I would recommend to wear long sleeves or long pants to avoid scratches on your skin. You could purchase a light preventative garment to put your mind at ease for the first three months following your treatment. You only need to wear it during the activity, unless otherwise advised, with the exception of swimming. Do you know that the weight of the water is naturally compressing your limbs? Water exercises are the best one for lymphoedema. Take the time to rest sometime during the day and elevate your legs. You are in the great outdoors, enjoy it! All these activities also have the benefits of keeping the circulation going, boost your immune system, and keep your weight under control.
Should you like hiking, wear your garment or good compression socks and a supportive pair of shoes. Ensure that they are not too tight, as you may develop blisters. In this instance, you disinfect them and cover them immediately to avoid infection. Ensure that you drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and take some hydralyte and magnesium to help with muscle soreness and cramping and elevate your legs if your feet swell. Take the time to stretch before, during and after your hike to keep your muscles elasticity and don't go too far too soon, as you need to build up your strength.
Outdoor activities increase the circulation and decrease the stress hormones too. So my advice is to feel the fresh air on your face and the sunshine on your skin, listen to the sound of the water in the creek or the birds in the trees. Walk on the beach or stroll through the trees. You will feel the joy of life as the endorphins run through your body, boost your energy and chase the black dog away.