I have defied the odds more than once, but right now I will tell you about my lymphedema. In 1991, I had major cancer surgery. A malignant melanoma was removed from my right thigh and my lymph nodes were removed. My life was changed forever. Malignant Melanoma can be deadly. I almost died from it. I was in stage 4. The oncologist said, “This is major cancer surgery. It will change your life. You will be bedridden for the rest of your life. You will never work again. You will never have children.” In other words, I was sentenced to LIFE IN BED.
The first year after the surgery was heck, torture, and downright depressing. I went from being an athlete, gymnastics coach, fitness trainer, and business owner to being stuck in bed. I really WAS bedridden. With each limitation there was sadness. The limitation that bothered me the most was my ability to coach gymnastics. I was so upset that I could not coach effectively anymore. I realized that I must change my coaching style. All my success as a coach happened after major cancer surgery.
I have been able to maintain my lymphedema for 3 decades because I understand the condition and I have extensive knowledge of health and exercise. There are many things that must be considered daily. The thing that most people do not understand is that I must be careful with germs. I wash my hands often, make sure my food is prepared properly, and make sure I do not step on anything that would cause infection.
What types of exercise can I do? The best exercise for my lymphedema is swimming because I am horizontal, my leg is in motion, and it is non-impact. Walking and running cause swelling because they are high impact. Lymphedema is annoying, painful, and just plain sucks at times. I have accomplished so much since the surgery. I have been able to live an almost normal life. My gymnastics career has gone far beyond where I expected.
I have published several gymnastics and fitness books, training programs, articles, and podcasts. My coaching career might not have been so amazing if I was never forced to change my coaching style. Lymphedema has become my best friend and worst enemy. I think of it all day long, make sure it does not get out of hand, and I take care of it when there are complications. Three decades later… I am independent, I have a good career, and I can take care of my beautiful greyhound.