I don't know when it happened. I am not sure if it was a gradual process over the time of my treatment; the surgery, the chemo, the radiation....or if it came much later and all at once, that I finally realized I was full of life, full of trillions of cells that were working endlessly to keep me alive! Keeping me alive, so I can look out of these eyes, move these hands, speak the words that come from these lips and experience thought as it occurred in this head. How marvelous and strange. Why the effort? The magical effort of this genius collection of cells to keep me alive?
I really never knew much about my body. Not much at all. I think I had heard of my lymphatic system way back in Grade 10 biology class. I was too busy gossiping at the back of class to get much of that. But I sort of knew I had lymphs. I think I knew more about lymphs that appeared in classic poetry...lymphs or I knew I had a couple of glands in my neck that would get sore when I had a sore throat, or was coming down with a cold. But I started to wonder about these lymphs a bit when finding a lump in my breast. After an ultra sound, a mammogram and a needle biopsy, my "lymphs" started to throb. I learned then that I had more lymph nodes under my arms and even more in my pelvis. They seemed to be popping up everywhere. I didn't really know much about them, except that they were painful, but I became acquainted with them very fast!
From then on I was on a crash course on the lymphatic system! "Lymph nodes" and "lymphatic system" seemed to be in every conversation. Sat, the first naturopath I worked with, a phenomenal woman, she kept talking about my lymph and keeping the lymph flowing. The doctors had confirmed the cancer, but "is it in the lymph?" they kept wondering. They would palpate my lymphs...lymph nodes that is. They would debate back and forth and conclude that even though they were throbbing, they didn't feel cancerous and not to worry. But my lymphatic system had more to say to me than that and it had started to communicate with me. I was now aware of its presence in my body. I knew that the cancer was in my lymph nodes. I was the only one who was not surprised when after surgery the surgeon announced 14 of 26 lymph nodes he had removed were cancerous.
Someone along the way had explained this wonderful lymphatic system to me in simple enough terms that I understood. The lymph nodes and the lymphatic system were like the police. In an area of the body where there is a crime occurring, the lymph nodes work to clean up the neighbourhood and move the criminals out. They are like the bouncers at the night club, getting rid of any problems. So, it only makes sense that if the lymph nodes are escorting out the trouble, then you will find trouble with the lymph nodes. Hence, cancer was in my lymph nodes. They were doing their job!
Unfortunately, current practice up until very recently was to remove cancerous lymph nodes, in effect, removing the police from the area of highest crime! Although I had some understanding of this, I failed to speak up at my time of surgery, gripped by a some intimidation, I deferred to my surgeon and he removed as many as he could, doing exactly what he thought would be best for me. Had I the knowledge and confidence I have now, I would have stayed with my gut feeling about the situation and requested he leave the lymph nodes alone. Only a year later the Medical community come out and reported that removing the lymph nodes was no longer recommended practice! Love them and leave them seems to be best practice now.
Why is this relevant to you? If you have compromised health in any way, it would be wise to become best friends with your lymphatic system right away. I learned about my lymphs a backward sort of way. My lymphatic system had to literally shout to get me to even know it really existed! As Mary Elder said, "Sometimes Grace comes in the form of a punch in the face." Before you get the punch, here are some simple ways to befriend your lymphs, it is very easy and lots of fun. They will love your for it and work even harder to keep your system working well for you. You can also check out our resources for more lymphatic system information.
- Water makes the world go round. Every system in your body needs water, the lymphs like it too.
Feels great and is one of the most effective exercises to aid the lymphatic system's removal of criminals from your body.
Purchase a dry skin brush and before your shower give yourself a light brush to help the lymphs do their job!
Cut Your Socks! -
Cut or loosen or chuck any clothes that leave an imprint of a line in your skin. Those clothes work with the criminals and prevent your wonderful lymphatic police from clearing out an area of your body. They have enough work to do, don't give them road blocks! Cutting the top of tight socks can often work.
There are trained massage therapists who specialize in lymph massage and lymphatic drainage and can give your lymphatic system a treat and assist with all their work. Look for professionals in your area. Alternatively, you can easily learn to give yourself a simple lymphatic massage. You can easily incorporate this into how you dry yourself with a towel or get into the routine.
For more information on these ideas check out our resources on the lymphatic system.