Falling off the Bell Curve

Or, “I’ve never been average in my life!”

The doctor informed me on Friday that, statistically, most cases of lymphedema resolve on their own – I informed the doctor that, statistically, I shouldn’t even be there*.

I was questioned as to what exactly I might have done to set off my lymphedema; my arm was examined to be sure I didn’t have unnoticed injuries (or perhaps Munchasusen Syndrome?); tested to be sure I didn’t have pitting edema (I don’t); and then measured to see where the edema was the greatest. And then I was told that, statistically, the lymphedema and cording would most likely resolve on their own.

Statistically speaking, my risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer was 1 in 69. Beat those odds, didn’t I?

The risk of developing cording and lymphedema with a lumpectomy and sentinel node dissection is generally seen as very low to negligible, especially with someone who is relatively thin and otherwise healthy. Once again, roll those dice, and watch the numbers turn up…

Being that it’s been such a very lucky year for me so far, I want to deal with this *now*, rather than adapting a ‘wait and see’ attitude, particularly since I already have cording and lymphedema in my left arm and down my flank, and radiation is likely to make everything much worse for a while. Not to mention that both conditions are additive – in that the more that they occur, the greater the risk of their recurrence.

On the whole, I was not best pleased – o, I’m delighted that she skis and  rock climbs  and wrestles wild boars* despite her lymphedema, and I do understand that she may want to present lympedema as an utterly manageable and livable condition rather than a dread and scary disease – but it’s still very much a Big Hairy Deal to me, and I want to deal with it proactively. Trust me, I’m just as sorry I’m an outlier in this as anyone else, probably more so – but I’m not trusting that it’s all going to magically get better on its own.

Friday, I’m off to rehab at the lymphedema clinic. Let’s hope for a break in that lucky streak of mine, shall we?


*Yeah, the one in eight figure- but that’s a *lifetime* risk. Figures are for America:

A woman’s chance of being diagnosed with breast cancer is:

  • from age 30 through age 39 . . . . . . 0.43 percent (often expressed as “1 in 233”)
  • from age 40 through age 49 . . . . . . 1.45 percent (often expressed as “1 in 69”)
  • from age 50 through age 59 . . . . . . 2.38 percent (often expressed as “1 in 42”)
  • from age 60 through age 69 . . . . . . 3.45 percent (often expressed as “1 in 29”)

* this last may be fictitious
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