• Jeanine Mewburn

Goal setting for lymphoedema

We already know that there is no cure for it and that lymphoedema is chronic. This means that someone with lymphoedema has to live with it for the rest of their life. It is dreadful to ask for a solution and receive this answer but fortunately life moves on and lymphoedema is manageable. Complex Lymphatic Therapy is what you need. CLT consists of lymphatic drainage massage, compression, exercise and skin scare. Should you find it difficult to manage any component of the treatment, I would suggest that you work with your lymphoedema therapist who can support you in achieving your goals.

For example, should you not find the time for your lymphoedema self-management routine, ensure you have regular lymphatic drainage massage. LDM is beneficial for so many reasons: to remove excess fluid, to circulate the fluid more efficiently through your body and avoid tissue congestion, to improve the immune system and your energy levels. LDM also helps someone recovering quicker following a bout of exercise. Depending on your need, you can have a weekly, fortnightly or monthly LDM to help you keep on track.

As you navigate your personalised CLT plan with your therapist you may realise that you need to adjust your lifestyle in certain areas to ensure you are getting maximum benefit from your treatment as well as preventing your condition from worsening. When you have identified areas if your life that you would like to make change, setting goals for yourself is a good way to working towards achieving those changes.

For example, exercise is recommended when undergoing CLT and to start an exercise program your therapist may guide you in what could work best for you. You can also enroll an exercise physiologist or simply start walking, swimming or join a class. Tai-chi and Gi Gong are exceptional for your balance and breathing and so is yoga and Pilates. You need to make your goal achievable because starting with an exercise program is one thing, to keep it going for the rest of your life is another. For example, you may start walking around the block for 10 minutes daily for 2 to 3 weeks. On the third week you increase your walking frequency to twice/day: one walk in the morning and one in the evening. As you become stronger you may increase your distance and your time. Your goal may be to eventually walk 4 kilometres, 4 times a week for 40 minutes. All you need is a good pair of walkers for support and stability and wear your compression garment when exercising. If you maintain focus on your goal then the sky is your limit. At the very least, you will most certainly enjoy your time in the fresh air while walking.

Your next goal may be looking at your diet. What is making you feel bloated and tired? Are you a fast eater? Are you eating on the go? You can also talk about it with your lymphoedema therapist and find a strategy. Shops like Coles and Woolworth offer a wide range of products for people with special dietary requirements. The main thing is that you enjoy food that makes you feel good while keeping your weight under control.

Your lymphoedema goals are the road maps that guide you and show you what is possible in your life. The best remedy is to manage and prevent the worsening of lymphoedema while living life to the fullest. There are plenty of resources out there that you can access for free around goal setting and finding what works for you can sometimes be a journey in itself, but as Bill Gates says "treatment without prevention is unsustainable." Talk to your lymphoedema therapist about your options, find the support your need and enjoy life's pleasures.

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