Rebuilding lives in the treatment of breast cancer lymphedema with an occupational therapist approach Rebuilding lives in the treatment of breast cancer lymphedema

Rebuilding lives in the treatment of breast cancer lymphedema with an occupational therapist approach

                          Rebuilding lives in the treatment of breast cancer lymphedema with an occupational therapist approach

             Information about breast cancer is a situation that is at the very least uncomfortable, where the patient transforms his life in search of a solution. The first phase is coping with the treatment that usually involves surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. However, the results of the treatment and the complications that may occur bring more anxiety and expectations regarding the cure and possible complications.

              Faced with all these disorders, during treatment, patients do not always receive the necessary information to reduce or avoid complications. They are often instructed to stop doing their daily activities and especially their occupational activities. This information is an aggravating factor for your quality of life in all aspects, be it physical, due to the limitation of not being able to do anything else, psychological, because it generates more depression due to the lack of productivity and socioeconomic factor, financial reduction, due to absence occupational. In this way, guidance from the occupational therapist and the team can help prevent lymphedema and treat it.

            The human being is an occupational being, and this subject has been studied and known since ancient times. It is known that when you reduce or eliminate this occupation, it affects your life terribly. Lymphedema is a complication that can occur and further aggravate the self-image already deteriorated by the removal of the breast or part of it, where it is known that it represents femininity and motherhood for women, and now lymphedema in the arm, an additional deformity in her body.

            When life changes lead to a partial or total reduction in occupational activities, this can become a stigma of unproductiveness or a feeling of “I am no longer capable or I cannot anymore”. For the human being, this represents a deterioration of life, thus, returning the occupation through the development of new skills, stimulating the discovery of new forms of occupation with each daily action makes these women rebuild a new life and with a new meaning. The occupational therapist has in this function and in this aspect, an essential role in the treatment of lymphedema.

             The occupation adapted and developed for these women, be they work or new activities, such as the discovery of a skill in painting, music or even social, such as organizing, participating in support groups for communities that need their support, makes the life is restructured, valued and full. Thus, breast cancer and / or post-treatment lymphedema will never be a limiting factor, but a learning process for us to be happy.

              The experience we have in these years with the group of women with lymphedema after breast cancer treatment “living with lymphedema”, clearly shows that life has not ended either with cancer or with lymphedema. On the contrary, for many it was a new life experience where new occupational discoveries transformed their lives and for the better. Therefore, when we are treating a chronic disease we have to think comprehensively and not just about the physical, but in all aspects.

 Occupation as a form of therapy improves all aspects from physical, psychological, social, community and family. Therefore, it is an aspect that must be encouraged and improved in therapy groups.

           In relation to the psychological aspect, there is a saying that says “healthy mind occupied mind”, in this way, physical and intellectual occupation in all senses fills a space of time in our minds, which diverts thinking from problems.

           Physical occupation can be aimed at producing goods and even as a way of treating lymphedema. Our experience shows that the simplest and most functional way of treating lymphedema is the association of grosgrain cuffs with oriented occupational activities. Therefore, occupation as a form of treatment using lymphokinetic activities is one of the best treatment options for these patients associated with grosgrain cuffs. The guidelines in relation to physical activities can transform these activities into occupational lymphokinetic exercises.

         Fátima Godoy in her doctoral thesis was evaluating the main day-to-day lymphokinetic activities. Studies proving its effectiveness associated with grosgrain clamps have been carried out. Therefore, occupational activities transformed into occupational exercises associated with grosgrain cuffs are effective in reducing lymphedema after breast cancer treatment.

The group “living with lymphedema” has gone through all this evolution in these years. Today they are looking for new paths, where the objectives involve transforming production into benefits for needy communities. This search turned into a wonderful occupation in which the work developed by the women in the group becomes useful for people most in need. In this way, they radically changed their outlook on life, becoming important people for the family and community.

    Another aspect is that they identified people in the community who adhered to their causes and started to contribute and share this experience. It has been a great experience for these professionals who have embraced the cause, such as teachers of painting, crafts, dance and others. The role of the treatment team is to guide and motivate all of these events, but to let them “walk on their own legs”. The stimulus to creativity is the soul of this success in the search for the transformation of these lives.