For most of us experiencing breast cancer, the story is shared. The lump, then surgery, chemotherapy, irradiation, hormonal therapy, depending on the case. When all treatments are finished you may think that’s it. But no! In about half the cases, lymphedema, a swelling of the arm and hand sets in. This is because lymph nodes may have been removed because they might harbor cancer cells and the lymph has nowhere to go so it pools in the arm. The biggest problem is that there is no immunity in the arm, and you are extremely sensitive to infections. A tiny scrape can cause an infection that, if left untreated, may become life-threatening.
Treatment for lymphedema is compression, along with special, custom-made sleeves and gloves, exercise and massage. All this costs money. The Ontario Government Assistive Devices Program (ADP) covers 75% of the cost of sleeves and gloves, but the patient portion comes to over $1,000 a year. This is in addition to the special massage (at $90 per hr) and exercises, and the expense comes at a time when you have the cancer to fight.
This is where the Community Foundation of Kingston and Area (CFKA) comes in. CFKA is funding programs designed to help improve the Kingston community. BCAK applied for a grant last February and in May we were overjoyed to hear that the grant was approved! We received $14,770, enough to give financial support to a good number of sufferers who cannot afford it. We also received special prices for swimming passes at the Queen’s swimming pool at the ARC and at the RMC pool. As there is no lymphedema expert in Kingston, we will be inviting Dr. Anna Towers from McGill to give a talk and advice on how to fight lymphedema.
We are grateful to the Community Foundation and also the Tragically Hip Community Fund and the Smart and Caring Community Fund for making all this possible. Special thanks are due to Penny Scott for the help she gave us in putting the application together. We hope that lymphedema, which generally lasts a lifetime once it starts, will be brought under control and people will be able to again lead happy and productive lives.
Leda Raptis, BCAK Grant Coordinator