What a difference for Dorothy following care at St Catherine’s clinic
A breast cancer survivor has praised the care and support she receives from a specialised clinic at St Catherine’s as the nation marks Hospice Care Week.
Dorothy Woodburn developed lymphoedema – a condition where the lymphatic system struggles to drain waste fluid from the body – in her right arm after finishing treatment for breast cancer three years ago.
The condition causes swelling down the length of her arm and into her hand leading to pain and discomfort.
But since she was referred to St Catherine’s Lymphoedema Clinic she has learned how to better manage the disorder herself, whilst receiving expert intervention when she suffers a more severe attack.
The 67-year-old from Alston has also enjoyed taking part in a dance-based therapeutic exercise programme called Lebed, targeted at supporting the lymphatic system.
Dorothy, a retired wages clerk, shared her experiences of the clinic at St Catherine’s as the country celebrates Hospice Care Week. The theme this year is ‘be surprised’ – and she wanted to showcase important elements of the hospice’s work which people might be unaware of.
Dorothy said: “I was warned throughout my cancer treatment there was the possibility I would develop lymphoedema because when they performed the lumpectomy to remove the cancerous cells they also found it had spread to my arm, meaning they had to remove the lymph nodes on one side too.
“I first noticed it in my hand, which became swollen along with the rest of my arm. I enjoy sewing and knitting and it stopped me being able to do that, as well as everyday jobs like hanging the washing out.
“When I was first referred to the Woodside Clinic at St Catherine’s in 2009 they carried out massage on my arm, encouraging the fluid to drain through my lymphatic system on the other side. They also taught me and my husband Brian the techniques so we could do it ourselves at home.”
Following her first contact with the clinic three years ago Dorothy also became a member of the Life patient support group, where she gets to meet other people living with the condition and takes part in activities such as meditation and yoga.
After recently suffering a deterioration in her condition she has been re-referred to the specialist lymphoedema nurses at the Woodside Clinic, and is now receiving treatment using state-of-the-art equipment including a laser – which softens the tissue to help fluid pass more easily through it – and the LympAssist pump – which mimics massage techniques.
A new Lebed programme, which runs at the hospice four times ayear, also started at the hospice last month, which Dorothy is enjoying attending again.
“I love the Lebed classes,” she said. “They’re such good fun and really help with my condition too.
“It was a big thing for me to walk into a room, not knowing anyone, and join in with something like that. Your confidence does take a knocking after experiencing cancer, but being part of this has helped me feel myself again.”
Her daughter Lynne Slater, from Goosnargh, was so impressed with her mum’s care, she and husband Christopher made a £300 donation to the clinic instead of buying favours for guests at their wedding in August.
She asked for the money to be spent on the Lebed classes, where it has gone towards new props and equipment including an iPod docking station to play music on for the class.
The 44-year-old deputy headteacher, who was a guest on the St Catherine’s float with her mum at the Guild Torchlight procession, said: “My family and I have seen the enormous impact coming to St Catherine’s, and in particular attending the Lebed classes, has had on my mum and we wanted to give something back.
“After suffering such a life-changing illness, coming here has gone a long way towards restoring her confidence and getting her back to her old self.”
Debbie Murphy, lymphoedema services manager, said the service they provide for people with cancer and non-cancer lymphoedema is all about helping them ‘thrive not just survive’.
“Lymphoedema affects people in many little ways – like not being able to get your shoes on, or find a jumper which fits – which have such a huge impact,” she said
“We are here to help people with these symptoms, and teach them how to manage the condition themselves at home.”
St Catherine’s Hospice would like to thank Dorothy and Lynne for sharing their stories, which we have published here with heir permission.
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