A strange place to find guitar strings

The first two weeks after surgery was great.  I could hardly believe there had been so little pain.  I’m in my third week now post-op and things are looking strange…..really strange.  A few days ago I felt a twinge of pain.  Twinges happen after any operation so that’s no problem.  However, with this twinge I instinctively touched my hand to the place that hurt which was on the right side of my abdomen.  “Goodness gracious!” I say aloud to myself, “What is that?”  I quickly get to a mirror and what to my astonished eyes do I see?  Something that looks like a couple of guitar strings snaking its way downwards for about six inches.  Upon further investigation, I see in actual fact, these guitar-like strings begin under the arm and proceed down toward the stomach area.  How peculiar is all I keep thinking to myself over and over.  The strings are tight and tender to the touch.  For several days I had been feeling more sore than the first two weeks and now I am realizing these “strings” are the reason why.

I’ve been in touch with my Breast Cancer nurse who asked lots of relevant questions and confirmed I have something called Axillary Web Syndrome.  That’s a new one to me; never heard of it.  This phenomenon most often occurs under the arm and may proceed down the arm even to the fingers.  In more rare instances it can begin in the armpit and proceed into the chest area or abdomen.  So….I have to be rare with mine proceeding down the abdomen.  Axillary Web Syndrome occurs when there has been a trauma, like surgery, to the lymph nodes.  The lymph drainage system has sustained a shock to its system and responds by what is called a ‘lymphatic cording’.  I thought my description of ‘guitar strings’ was rather picturesque but we’ll stick with the medical term used – ‘cording’.

The nurse has given me some stretching exercises to do for the next three days to keep the cords from tightening further.  Tightening of the cords can greatly affect shoulder and arm movement.  I’m not sure how it affects abdomen movement but I can say it’s a bit uncomfortable bending sideways.  I’m to phone the nurse on Tuesday to say how I’m doing after these exercises and we’ll proceed from there.

Besides limited movement, this syndrome can lead to Lymphedema.  This is something I would prefer not to have; hence another prayer request for you.    Lymphedema happens, as does Axillary Web Syndrome, when there has been trauma, like surgery, to the lymph glands.  This can cause the system to back up, sort of like a clogged drain, which in turn causes swelling.  Again, in most women this would happen in the arm.  I’m not sure what all happens when it’s in the abdominal area.  At any rate, as I said, I would really prefer not to have this Axillary Web Syndrome to develop into Lymphedema.   Although not life-threatening, Lymphedema  is not curable and would therefore be a bit of a nuisance to deal with long-term.  So, there we are with the latest news alert along this current journey.

I continue to be encouraged by the knowledge of your prayers and your many reminders of those prayers through emails and cards.

One other word….from here on I will always update my blog on Fridays unless there is something particular to report in the week.   Thank you everyone.  You bless me tremendously.