Santa Cruz Good Times

Thursday
Apr 24th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Lymphedema

What is it? Patients with this frustrating disease speak out and offer help

Incoverlymphedema 2000, Stephanie Mungai received one of those pesky insect bites. Most people would just slap on some soothing balm and forget about it. But for Mungai, that was hardly the case. Within an hour her arm was red and puffed up to nearly an inch larger than its normal size. She had to rush to an emergency room.

Mungai soon learned that it was no ordinary insect bite. The doctors informed her that she had an infection in her lymph system, which was aggravated by the bite. “The infection comes from protein buildup in the lymph system and I was treated with antibiotics, sent home and suggested to go see a therapist,” Mungai says.

She did go see that therapist and soon found out that she had lymphedema, an uncomfortable illness that is often a byproduct of cancer treatment. A complicated, confusing and frustrating disease, in short, the visuals on it are that it typically swells extremities—at times, the trunk of the body—sometimes to severe degrees. Inflicted individuals go through much turmoil dealing with it and some of its treatments involve various types of massage, including some self-massage and in-patient treatments. They often have to wear constricting garments to control swelling. In addition, the condition can get worse at any time. And frankly, things never really get “better.” Once someone encounters lymphedema, it seems that it’s there to stay.

Finally, there’s one final lurking concern about lymphedema: You might not have it yet, but you may be in the 35th percentile that have gone through cancer treatments and are likely to get it.

Mungai was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1991 and underwent a lumpectomy. In addition, many of her lymph nodes were removed. And while she became cancer-free, she says that no doctors warned her that she would be susceptible to lymphedema. Hence the shock when she was diagnosed with it after that insect bite. Since then, Mungai has dealt with lymphedema in that same arm.

A similar thing happened to Michelle Shippen.

Shippen ended up having to deal with lymphedema years after she had gone through treatment for uterine cancer. She now deals with the headache and heartache that accompany lymphedema in her left leg.

“It’s a very challenging disease,” Shippen says. “It’s disfiguring and uncomfortable.”

Fortunately, there are support systems and bountiful resources set in place in Santa Cruz for people with lymphedema. Shippen has been involved with a support group through the Dominican Hospital Lymphedema Clinic. And on March 3, she and many others who deal with this disease will host a fundraiser to garner funds to provide things like compression garments for people whose insurance may not cover such items. (The timing comes just days before National Lymphedema Awareness Day, which is March 6.) All monies from the fundraiser will be poured into the Lymphedema Patient Support Fund.

A fashion show will also take place at the fundraiser/champagne luncheon. Models (actual people with lymphedema) will wear clothing options that compliment the body of someone who is dealing with lymphedema.

At press time, there were only a few tickets remaining, so the show is likely already sold out. Organizers, including Shippen, are hoping to raise $10,000.

“There are more people affected than I ever believed,” Mungai says. “[Support groups] are a good sharing mechanism to find out what new things are out there to help you.”

For more information about Dominican Hospital’s Lymphedema Clinic, call 457-7113. For more information about lymphedema, visit lymphnet.org. Pictured: Michelle Shippen.
Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Best of Santa Cruz County 2014

The 2014 Santa Cruz County Readers' Poll Come on in, and have a look around. There’s a lot to see—hundreds of winners selected by thousands of GT readers across Santa Cruz County. So if some of this looks familiar, it’s probably because you helped make it happen. But there are always new things to discover, too—you could go to a different winner or runner-up every day in the Food and Drink category alone, and you’d be booked just about until next year’s Best of Santa Cruz County issue comes out.

 

Something Essential Disappears

Lunar and solar eclipses follow one another. Lunar eclipses occur at full moons, and solar eclipses at new moons. Two weeks ago at the full moon we had the blood red moon—a total lunar eclipse (the next one is Oct. 8). On Monday night, April 28 (new moon), as the Sun, Moon and Earth align, a solar eclipse (Sun obscured) occurs. Eclipses signify something irrevocably is changed in our world. The Sun is our essential life force. Monday’s new moon, 9 degrees Taurus, is also an annular solar eclipse when the Moon moves centrally in front of the Sun, yet does not cover the Sun completely. The Sun's outer edges, still visible, form a “ring of fire” around the Moon.

 

Sugar: The New Tobacco?

Proposed bill would require warning labels on sugary drinks Will soda and other saccharine libations soon come with a health warning? They will if it’s up to our state senator, Bill Monning (D-Carmel). On Feb. 27, Monning proposed first-of-its-kind legislation that would require a consumer warning label be placed on sugar-sweetened beverages sold in California. SB 1000, also known as the Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Safety Warning Act, was proposed to provide vital information to consumers about the harmful effects of consuming sugary drinks, such as sodas, sports drinks, energy drinks, and sweetened teas.

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of April 17

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
Sign up for Tomorrow's Good Times Today
Upcoming arts & events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Palate-Stretching 101

A wine education with Soif’s experts As a veteran of many weekend wine “seminars” at Soif, I have to confess that I’ve never known less (going in) and learned more (coming out) than I did last week at the Spanish Wine Tasting with ace rep Brian Greenwood. These are classy, casual events and it’s hard to imagine having this much flavor fun anywhere for $20.

 

Martin Ranch Winery

Sauvignon Blanc 2011 One of my favorite wines is Sauvignon Blanc, and this one made by Martin Ranch is particularly lovely. Bright, crisp and refreshing, it’s perfect to pair with fish and shellfish—and good for picnics as it has an easy screw-cap bottle. There’s nothing worse than setting down your blanket, pulling out your sandwiches—and then realizing you don’t have a corkscrew.

 

Foodie File: Red Apple Cafe

Breakfast takes center stage at Gracia Krakauer's Red Apple Cafe Before they moved to Aptos, Gracia and her husband Dan Krakauer would visit friends in Santa Cruz County and eat at the Red Apple Café all the time. Then they moved up here from Santa Monica five years ago, and bought the Aptos location (there’s a separate one in Watsonville) from the family who owned it for two decades.

 

How would you feel about a tech industry boom in Santa Cruz?

I feel like it would ruin the small old-town feeling of Santa Cruz. It wouldn’t be the same Surf City kind of vacation town that it is. Antoinette BennettSanta Cruz | Construction Management