Sharon Du Bois - Dr. Marga's January 2011 Mermaid of the Month
My story began 10 years ago when I received the word from my gynecologist that I had cancer of the Endometrium. Little did I know then that surviving it was not my only worry. About a year later at one of my check-ups, I asked the Dr. about the swelling in my feet. My shoes were getting tight and were uncomfortable to wear for any period of time. He immediately sent me to a physical therapist and she explained to me that I had something called lymphedema -- due to many lymph nodes that were removed to rid my body of the cancer. So, I have battled it for almost ten years. During that time, I was taught how to bandage my legs and do lymph drainage massage, and wear compression hose every day. It is very time consuming and many times I get discouraged because it never goes away. My legs feel so heavy and when I exercise too much, they hurt and throb. Rest is the only thing that helps.
I have seen the physical therapist on a regular basis since that time. At one of my visits my PT gave me an informative paper on the VLNT procedure that Dr. Massey was doing to relieve patients of this problem. After researching on the internet and asking my family doctor about it, I was encouraged to make the call to the Chicago office. I am so glad I did. Jenny took the call and answered many of my questions and she had some of her own. That initial phone consult led her to schedule me for a lymphoscintigraphy to evaluate my particular case. A few days later I met Dr. Massey. She spent a great deal of time explaining the entire procedure and answered many of my questions. She immediately made me feel at ease. What a rare find we have in this doctor. She is warm and personal and compassionate. I didn't feel like she rushed me through. She truly wanted to take me on as a patient and help me. I know she is so busy and has many patients, yet when she is with you, you feel as though you are her most important patient in the world.
She agreed to take me on as a patient and asked me if I would be willing to travel to New Orleans to the new hospital where she would be conducting surgery during the month of July. I said to my husband, "New Orleans in July -- wearing these hot compression hose. What am I thinking???" But it was a phenomenal experience. I can't say enough for the staff of nurses and doctors there. The hospital had just opened a few months earlier and I was the first person to have VLNT of the legs done there.
When Dr. Massey did my pre-op appointment the night before the surgery, I was very nervous. She said she had something to ask me, but was concerned since I seemed apprehensive. I wanted to know what she was thinking, so I told her to go ahead and ask. She told me that the New Orleans TV news had gotten word of this surgery and wanted to know if I would agree to do an interview. I told her that an interview was the least of my worries and that would not make me nervous at all. So, there were numerous papers to sign, etc.
Soon after the surgery I was up walking and enjoying all the attention I was getting. Sure enough Louisiana's news leader channel 4 was moving into my room with cameras and news people. And here I was just a few hours after the surgery and no "make-up" on and only a comb in my purse. But everyone was wonderful and personable and it was fun to share my story. For, you see, it is not about me. It is about helping others and getting the word out that Dr. Massey and others are working every day to make people like me have a more normal life. Lymphedema does not have to be a handicap.
I have had people ask me since the surgery if it has helped and if I would do it again. The answer is yes. I know I can never be cured, but to slow or stop the progress is my goal. And I won't give up. I believe that God gives us obstacles in our lives to shape us and mold us into the person He wants us to become. It has kept me humble and has taught me that I am not in control, but God is and He knows what He is doing.
I can't say enough to express my thanks to Dr. Massey and to Jenny who keeps in touch and remembers me after dealing with so many patients. They are such special people. Thank you for making a difference in my life.
Sharon Du Bois