In 2002, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. During that year, I went through chemotherapy, a mastectomy, and radiation treatment. The following year, I was diagnosed with lymphedema in my arm. I was told it was the result of the removal of lymph nodes during the mastectomy. I was devastated to learn that this was an incurable condition that would require lifelong treatment. I engaged in the treatment and the daily maintenance required to manage my lymphedema. However, no matter how careful I was, my arm would become infected multiple times a year. These infections would require several days in the hospital to be treated with intravenous antibiotics.
In 2016, I learned about the potential of lymph node transfer surgery. I was referred to Dr. Ashinoff. He was kind, respectful, and thorough in his explanation of the procedure involved in determining if I would be a candidate for this surgery. He also explained options for breast reconstruction, such as TRAM flap and DIEP flap, that could be completed at the time of the lymph node transfer. This was important to me as I had always opted to not have breast reconstruction for fear of intensifying my lymphedema. For years I had lived with the disfigurement of the mastectomy and the lymphedema. I coped with prosthetics for the mastectomy and compression bandaging, compression sleeves, and daily MLD massage to manage the lymphedema. Clothing choices also were difficult. Necklines needed to be considered to hide the mastectomy along with sleeves to fit the lymphatic arm.
Dr. Ashinoff was careful to explain that the surgery was not a cure for lymphedema but that it could greatly improve the lymph drainage in my affected arm, thus reducing the potential for infections and the need for constant maintenance.
The surgery was conducted in July 2016 by Dr. Ashinoff and Dr. Schneider. In the nine hour surgery, lymph nodes were transferred from my groin to under my arm and breast reconstruction was completed. I was amazed at how little pain I experienced in this process. Eventually, I was able to eliminate the need for daily MLD massage, the size of my lymphatic arm reduced to almost the same size of my non-lymphatic arm, and infections in my lymphatic arm almost have been non-existent. I am also enjoying the benefits of my breast reconstruction. I am now able to wear normal bras and I have a great deal less difficulty with clothing choices.
Dr. Ashinoff and Dr. Schneider were very attentive to my recovery and always responded quickly when I had any concerns. This surgery was life-changing for me. It would not have been possible without the skills and expertise of Dr. Ashinoff and Dr. Schneider. I am very grateful that they have chosen to apply these skills to treat lymphedema.