Survival Story

Moving to California from South Africa at the age of 18 I never imagined that I could be faced with any life threatening illness that would change my life.

Soon after my 22nd birthday I detected a growth in my left thigh and after a myriad of scans I had the growth surgically removed.
This turned out to be one of the scariest weeks of my life while waiting for the heart thumping results. All my euphoria came crashing down when I heard the words “Stage 3B Melanoma Cancer”.

In my chemo chair

In my mind my literal heaven was slowly morphing into a figurative hell.
My roller coaster ride was soon filled with surgery, chemotherapy sessions and the debilitating effects of the dreaded cancer fighting chemicals. Through utter strength, courage and determination I got my Estheticians License in the same year I started chemotherapy.

Having gone through many life altering (and possible amputation) surgeries for Cellulitis and Streptococcus B infections in my leg due to having many lymph nodes removed,  I decided to sign up for a Surgical Technology program. I fell in love with the anatomy classes, surgical prep and surgical procedure classes.Lets face it,surgery had a big role in saving my life?

Towards the end of my program I took a month long trip to my home country of South Africa.  After 24 hours of travel, my left leg started to swell and become very uncomfortable and embarrassing.

Why was my leg getting so swollen? I had no idea how to take care of it, and why it was staying so abnormally larger than my right leg?

Upon arriving back in California I went straight to see my doctor who told me I have lymphedema and I should try getting some treatment for it.

Lymphedema, what is that? Why do I have that? Is it forever? Who treats it, and what is the treatment?

Those were some of many questions running through my mind. During treatment they explained to me that lymphedema is caused by the removal of my left groin lymph nodes to remove the cancer and save my life.

I proceeded to have a month of lymphedema treatment. I went in every day, five days a week for a month. They performed manual lymph drainage massage and would wrap bandages on my entire left leg from toes to groin to keep the swelling down. Following my month of treatment and education, I purchased a custom fit garment to wear at night as a part of my maintenance regimen. My leg was miraculously, comfortably and visually much better, and therefore I went back to finishing my surgical technology internship. After finishing and graduating the surgical technology program with honors, I took a trip with my parents to Australia in April of 2011 to visit family.

On a flight to Australia
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After self massage, regular wear of the custom fit garment, taking care of my leg and learning all the tricks to keeping the swelling under control, I decided I should be okay to fly over seas and try manage my lymphedema the best way I know how, which is my own way. The trip was amazing, and I took care of my lymphedema every day by doing what I was supposed to do.

My leg did not swell up and on the way home on the airplane my father and I started to discuss how well I took care of my swelling on my own, and that I should get into doing the treatment for others and specializing in the field of Lymphedema.

I believe I have turned my adversity into a strength to help others. This field of treatment is over looked and people are not educated enough on this condition.

With my hero/ oncologist Dr. Sender at a Cancer Survival Convention in Vegas
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