Lymphedema Therapy in D.C.

May 11, 2010

Looking for a lymphedema therapist or physical therapist in Washington, D.C. or the surrounding area?  I’ve seen a BUNCH of them, and these are my absolute favorite physical therapists who I would recommend to any breast cancer survivor (or new mom, cough cough) in Maryland, Northern Virginia, or Washington, D.C.

Bretta FabianBretta Fabian. Bretta is my all-time favorite physical therapist.  Her years of training and experience have helped her get directly to the root of the problem and know exactly what to do to help get the body back working the way it should be.  Over the years, Bretta has eased the swelling in my arms, taught me manual lymph drainage techniques, stretched the cords of scar tissue running up and down my arms until they gently release (important both for lymph drainage and mobility), manipulated scar tissue on my chest (to relieve pain and unbind the muscles), put my back back in joint, and realigned my pelvis after childbirth (ooh, that was embarrasing to type. But if you’ve ever had that pain, you need to know there’s help out there, and it may only take one visit).  Bretta is affiliated with the George Washington University Medical Center and works closely with their surgeons.  The only drawback is that her practice does not take insurance or medicare, so you’re on your own.  Bretta is at the Center for Wellness Solutions, 202-862-0770.

Vicki and Janice at The Adventist Rehabilitation Hospital of Maryland.  Adventist Rehab has five lymphedema specialists.  I have been very happy with and can highly recommend Vicki, who trained under the founder of the Norton School of Lymphatic Therapy.  Vicki helped me understand how the lymph system works, both verbally and by referencing the instructive posters that surround the treatment area.  Vicki is a master at lymphedema wrapping, has instructed both my husband and me in manual lymph drainage techniques, and has a cheerful, supportive demeanor in all that she does.  Vicki is creative and helped me find lymphedema wrapping materials when I was allergic to everything she’d worked with before.  She also returns phone calls from current patients and aids in ordering lymphedema sleeves, gloves, and nightwear garments.  Adventist Rehab also has a half-dozen or more physical therapists at each site who are highly skilled in a number of different hands-on and rehabilitative therapy techniques.  Janice in particular is a real treasure for hands-on work including scar tissue manipulation, muscle-energy techniques, and rehab to restore everyday function.  (Both Vicki and Janice are referred to here by first name only, as they don’t have a web presence of their own.)  Adventist accepts many forms of insurance with a physician’s referral.  240-864-6200.

Katina Marinos, MPT, is the chief physical therapist at a small practice in Rockville called Manual and Sports Therapy.  Her specialties, as you may be able to tell from the name, are manual work and sports medicine, although she worked for years with an orthopedic medicine group and has an exhaustive knowledge of the interplay between the bones and muscles, making treatment comprehensive and effective.  Katina is a physical therapist who can take you from couch to marathon, as both she and her almost 70-year old father have run marathons in the past few years; she trains people of all ages and abilities to run well and without injury.  This family-run, woman-owned business is a comforting, encouraging place to heal, and Katina has been able to work wonders realigning my bones, neck to legs in the past few years.  If your bones or muscles hurt, she’s absolutely wonderful.  Katina accepts some insurance with a referral.  301-770-1613.

I’ve seen at least five other physical therapists around the area in the past three years, in a quest to find one to relieve the pain AND take my insurance, but these are my absolute favorites and it’s not fair to keep them to myself any longer.  If you live outside the D.C. area, to find a lymphedema therapist, check out the National Lymphedema Network.  If you need help affording lymphedema sleeves, gloves, and/or gauntlets, try the Marilyn Westbrook Garment Fund.  If you think that insurance should cover these garments that cost $100-$1000 each that are necessary for breast cancer survivors and other edema suffers, please let your Congresspersons know that you support H.R. 4662, the Lymphedema Diagnosis and Treatment Cost Saving Act of 2010, introduced February 23 by Congressman Larry Kissell (NC-8) and now cosponsored by Congressman Ron Paul (TX-14).


April 13, 2010

Ack. Swelling. As if I’m holding a softball in my armpit. A not-entirely-unexpected side effect of the axillary node dissection, but still unwanted.

Excuse me while I have it drained.

Ooph! And they’re gone.

August 27, 2008

I woke up rested, having not gotten up with baby in the middle of the night, or been shoved by a certain preschooler as he crawled into bed with us around midnight (having been still in the ER at midnight), and also having slept in the comfiest bed in the place (much better than either the ER stretcher OR the couch that WonderDaddy graced). The doc walked in, briefed me on what was going to happen, and had me sign a consent form for this procedure AND for a full hysterectomy if things looked wonky once he got in there and took a look around (this, despite sounding scary, was a GOOD THING).

The nurse took my vitals, the doctor wished me well, and the transport dude wheeled me down to the pre-op room.

The pre-op room was nothing like I expected.  Quiet.  Silent, even, with the ripples of nothingness broken only by my doc walking in and briefing the resident.  The anesthesiologist was friendly and calm, telling me what to expect and where to sign.  WonderDaddy and I were joking around a bit, having done this just a few months ago, for a much more serious surgery.

There were scary parts, but those parts are my own, and I’m not going to discuss them here.

The anesthesiologist put the amnesia drug in my veins, and the next thing I remember …

… was waking up, groggy, in the same room I had slept in.  My belly was distended and tender, with three patches of bandage, and my throat was sore from the tube.  But I was alive.


And no longer in the achy pain that I had been suffering with since July, or the gut-wrenching pain that had consumed me over the weekend.

The rest we could work out.  The recovery would be quick, since the oopherectomy was done laproscopically instead of with a full cut across my abdomen.  We could go home that night, in a few hours, even.  I could finish the weekend’s work from bed perhaps.  Reschedule scrap night with the girls.  Pick a new date for Widget’s birthday party.

And remember the promises I made to myself in the E.R.  No more wasting time.

Time with each other is all we have.

Behind the Oopherectomy

August 26, 2008

So. An oopherectomy is a pretty intense surprise for the casual blog-hopper or twitter-friend. For me, and my mothers with cancer pals, it’s no big deal, but here’s a bit of the skinny, the story behind the story if you will..

Oopherectomy = removal of the ovaries and, often, the fallopian tubes connecting them to the uterus.

Oopherectomies are done for different reasons.  Sometimes they’re done preventatively, to cut a woman’s cancer risk.  If the woman carries the BRCA-1 or BRCA-2 genes that connect breast cancer and ovarian cancer, and the woman has already had breast cancer, the ovaries often come out right away.  Sometimes the uterus is taken too (a hysterectomy), but, as far as we know, uterine cancer is not connected to ovarian cancer or breast cancer.  The trick here is as far as we know — for scientists have only uncovered a few genes that predict cancer risk with any level of success.

So I opted not to even do the gene testing, and take the ovaries out preventatively.

Or at least I thought I did.

If you’ve been reading here for a while, you’ve heard me complain (sorry!) about an ache in my abdomen, where my ovaries are, that comes and goes but mostly is with me all the time.  On Saturday, the ache became more than just an ache.  It got stronger and stronger by the hour, despite the medicines that I took to dull the pain.  (The motrin prescribed by my GP (!!!!!) didn’t help.)  At about 5:00, a sharp stabbing pain in my pelvis took over all my thoughts, and I gave in and called my GYN.

He listened carefully and said, “Oh, Susan.  You shouldn’t have waited this long to call me.”

And with that, he sent us to the ER for emergency evaluation and probably surgery.

I called my mother and father to come watch the kids overnight, called L to see if I could drop them off for a dinner/playdate right away, called Stimey to ask for some help with the next day’s plans, and we got in the minivan and went.

WonderDaddy dropped me off at the ER to stand in line, then took the kids to L’s house.  When he got back (five minutes later), I was sobbing in a wheelchair.  The pain had kept increasing until it was almost more than I could bear (and I’ve borne a lot recently); a kind hospital volunteer noticed and tucked me in a chair, despite my protests (“I don’t want a chair. I’ve spent too much time in one this year.”)  But it was more comfortable, so I was glad of it.  When I got checked in, I was told that my GYN had called ahead, that the tests had been ordered, and I would be taken into the ER as soon as it was my turn at the ultrasound.

They were as good as their word.

A few nurses later (my GYN is AWESOME and feared by the nurses — when he walked in and one was mid-shot, he thundered, “ON WHOSE ORDERS?” and she scuttled out of the room without complaint.)(I later found out that as she left she leaned over to my husband and said, “I got a little into her — hopefully that will help with the pain while she’s having her tests.), we had had 7 vials of blood taken and were on our way to the ultrasound and the spiral CT.

The tests were easy (I mean, really.), and it was back to waiting.  I was finally dressed in the dreaded hospital gown, but I was in so much pain at that point (despite 3 rounds of the meds) that I didn’t care what I was wearing.  (Funny thing: when we were first brought back to the room, the nurse said, “Take off your shirt and bra and put on the gown.”  Confused, I said, “you do know the problem is in my ovaries, right?” and pointed to the area in question.  Rattled, she responded, “Yes, but I said to take off your bra and shirt.”  Okey-dokey.  And let’s not even get into the bra question.  (To hold WHAT up exactly?)  I did as I was told, as weird as it was to be undressed in the healthy areas and fully dressed in the part that HURT BEYOND BELIEF.)

Oh, this is getting long.  Sorry about that. I’ll skip over all the waiting part and just say that

six hours after the tests, I was admitted to the hospital for an overnight stay and surgery in the morning.