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Ask the Lymphedema specialists: Emily Naderer & Lauren Carity

In June’s Survivor Newsletter* we offered survivors the opportunity to ask questions  regarding lymphedema to certified lymphedema therapists Emily Naderer and Lauren Carity from Mount Carmel.

Below are some questions we received and their responses.

*Sign up for our survivor-only newsletter here.

Q1: What is lymphedema? What causes it?

A1: The best way to explain lymphedema is to first understand the anatomy and physiology of it all. In your body, fluid and nutrients are transported to the tissues by the arteries. Most of the fluid is returned to the heart by the veins, but a small portion of the fluid (about 10%) returns to circulation in the lymphatic vessels. This fluid, along with large molecules that are basically the waste products of the skin and muscles (we call them proteins) make up “lymph.” Normally your lymph vessels carry the lymph and proteins to the lymph nodes, and the lymph nodes break down those proteins. If there is damage to the lymphatic system, say by removal of lymph nodes, radiation, etc, the lymph starts to build up in the tissues because it is not being removed properly. The lymph build up will eventually cause a firm swelling in the affected area as the fluid and protein continues to collect. This is lymphedema.

Q2: Almost a 5 year survivor, sometimes I feel the heaviness in my arm which I believe to be lymphedema and a ring on my finger gets tight as well. Are these true symptoms of lymphedema?

A2: Yes, both heaviness and tightness of rings and watches are possible signs of lymphedema. Lymphedema typically develops in stages and in the early stages, there might actually not be a lot of visible swelling. Heaviness and minor changes in swelling can be early signs that the proteins are starting to build up in the tissues. If the lymphatic vessels are just barely keeping up with the demand of the body, we’ll often see swelling or other symptoms that tend to come and go at first. Usually over time these symptoms will get worse and become persistent if not addressed.

One other thing to keep in mind, is that often after breast surgery, being cautious with the affected arm will cause prolonged weakness on that side. The arm might feel “heavy” because the muscles on that side are weaker or faster to fatigue. This is why slowly building back up to normal strength is recommended. Going slow is important though, because overdoing it can actually cause some swelling by irritating the
muscles. As you can see, it’s not always cut and dry. I would recommend a physical therapy evaluation to take a closer look at what’s going on with your arm specifically.

Q3: What should I do if I think I’m having symptoms?

A3: The first step is to always talk to your doctor. If you are still undergoing treatment you can talk to your oncologist or surgeon. If you aren’t still seeing them anymore, talk to your family doctor. They can write a prescription for a physical therapy evaluation. The PT will take measurements, discuss your symptoms and come up with a plan to address anything discovered during the assessment.

Q4: Is there anything I can do to prevent it or treat it?

A4: The biggest key to prevention is skin care. You want to avoid infection. This means trying to avoid even the littlest cuts, scratches, burns etc. If you do have an injury, be diligent about keeping the area clean and protected as it heals.

Lymphedema cannot be cured, but the symptoms can definitely be managed with treatment. Treatment typically involves massage to move the proteins out of the tissues, compression to move the fluid and prevent further swelling, and continued skin care. Exercise may also be a part of the treatment for some, if weakness or scar tissue is playing a role.


July Volunteer of the Month: Bernice Smith

If you look up the word “multi-tasking,” you may find a photo of Bernice Smith under the definition. A mother of four, a student pursuing a college degree, and a self- proclaimed “serial volunteer”, we’re so happy that Bernice shares her time and talents with Komen Columbus. We are excited to announce Bernice as our July Volunteer of the Month!  Bernice shares with us, in her own words, why she volunteers with Komen Columbus.

Bernice Smith (right) pictured with Kathy Worly during the 2009 Race for the Cure.

Bernice Smith (right) pictured with Kathy Worly during the 2009 Race for the Cure.

What (or whom) inspired you to get involved with Komen Columbus? It must have been about 17 or 18 years ago that I sat through a presentation at church facilitated by a Sis. Riley. She was educating us on breast cancer and the measures we could take to be comfortable with our breasts, the steps we could take to be better aware of the state of our breasts, and she encouraged us to have open conversations with our doctors about our health care.

What’s your favorite part about volunteering with Komen Columbus? I have had the opportunity and pleasure over the last three years to act as one of the many chair people on the race committee for the annual Komen Columbus Race for the Cure. Can you imagine someone who jumps in with pleasure to make sure the Expo is returned to a state of cleanliness after 30,000 people have visited it? I enjoy volunteering with the students and other volunteers who give of themselves on a Saturday morning. This year I had the great pleasure to aid my own town’s high school marching band members, who froze their fingers off to help one of our race sponsors.

When you’re not volunteering for Komen Columbus, what do you like to do? When I am not volunteering with Komen you will find me studying for my IDST degree with a concentration in Public Relations, Safety, Security, and Emergency Management. I enjoy farming and volunteering with the Columbus Hands On Central Ohio. In my community of Marysville, I work at Honda of America, and when my schedule allows I work for our local school district. I volunteer with any activity that my four children are involved in, but I also volunteer with the Union County Emergency Management Agency, Union County Medical Reserve Corps, and the Marysville High School Marching Band, the Union County Board of Elections, the Marysville Church of Christ and a few other entities. In the last few years I have had the pleasure to be a crew member for some local and international hot air balloonists. Of course, behind every serial-volunteer you must have someone oil the wheel of reality – the  bills – and that would be my wonderfully supportive husband Carl.

Marathon for the Cure Team Members are Up and Running!

Interested in running or walking a full or half-marathon? Take on the challenge and join the Marathon for the Cure team!

Former Marathon for the Cure Team Captain Suzanne looking very happy during the 2010 Columbus Half Marathon

Former Marathon for the Cure Team Captain Suzanne looking very happy during the 2010 Columbus Half Marathon

Remember – when stamina runs out, inspiration kicks in!

There’s no minimum amount required to fundraise, but for every donation we receive, 75% supports vital breast health programs in our community while the remaining 25% funds global scientific research to find the cures for breast cancer.

Thinking about lacing up your shoes already? Follow these easy steps and you’ll be ready to hit the pavement.

  1. Register for the Full or Half Marathon event of your choice. (The Nationwide Children’s Marathon is coming up on Sunday, October 19 in Columbus if you need a local option AND we even have a special discount code available for all registered Marathon for the Cure team members!)
  2. Register as part of the official team online here and begin your fundraising. Registration for the team starts at only $10 and includes a Marathon for the Cure shirt and goodie bag.

SGK-MFTC-WEBAgain, there’s no minimum amount required to raise, but every dollar, just like every step you take running or walking, will make an impact.

Interested in running around Columbus? Contact us for the unique registration code that is valid for their early bird prices of $75 for the full marathon and $60 for the half marathon.

Thanks for your interest in Marathon for the Cure!

June Volunteer of the Month: Kris Gaston

We are happy to announce that Kris Gaston is our June Volunteer of the Month.

Kris lives like every day is her last day. Diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer  in 2000 she’s defied the odds for the past 14 years and continues to pleasantly surprise her doctors.

Kris is a warrior and says she volunteers at Komen Columbus because she wants to, “pay it forward.”

Julie McMahon, director of mission at Komen Columbus, says Kris’ fighting spirit is an inspiration to her and others.

“….When recovering from surgery, with time home, Kris chose to dedicate even more time to volunteering over the past few months. She does all this while facing her own metastatic breast cancer battle, and has become an inspiring example to me of how we are going to impact women’s lives,” said McMahon, “Kris lives her life with the attitude that her cancer is a chronic condition, and she fearlessly educates and inspires other through her work with Komen Columbus.”

Kris shares with us, in her own words, why she volunteers with Komen Columbus.

What (or whom) inspired you to get involved with Komen Columbus?

Since I was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer in 2000, so many people have been there to support me and my family in so many ways, that I want to do what I can to give back and pay it forward.

What’s your favorite part about volunteering with Komen Columbus?

Giving back and being involved in a wonderful organization that I feel is making a difference in advancements in breast cancer treatments, early detection for the underserved and quality of life issues for survivors.

What is the most memorable moment or event you’ve experienced with Komen Columbus?

This would have to be the first Race for the Cure I attended after my diagnosis. I was amazed at the number of people that were there. Seeing so many survivors, I felt like I was not alone.

When you’re not volunteering for Komen Columbus, what do you like to do?

Gardening, scrapbooking and spending time with my kids

Read more about Kris’ personal story.

May Volunteers of the Month: John Kennedy & Josh VanDervort

We are thrilled to announce that both John Kennedy and Josh VanDervort are our May Volunteers of the Month!

Josh VanDervort, April VanDervort and John Kennedy at the 2013 Komen Columbus Race for the Cure.

Josh VanDervort, April VanDervort and John Kennedy at the 2013 Komen Columbus Race for the Cure.

This dynamic duo co-chair the road marshals committee, this group of volunteers help maintain safety and provide directions for all participants along the Race course.

“John and Josh spend hours ensuring they have the proper number volunteers placed in important areas on the course, also taking the time to hold three separate training sessions to ensure their volunteers are educated and up-to-date in the latest Race information,’ said Becca Thomas, race director at Komen Columbus,  “John and Josh have always been a hard-working, dependable and energetic team and we are lucky to have them as part of the Race committee.”

John and Josh share with us, in their own words, why they volunteer at Komen Columbus.

What (or whom) inspired you to get involved with Komen Columbus?

John: Three experiences come to mind.  The first was the loss of a dear friend who worked with me at Nationwide by the name of Nancy Weese.  She fought breast cancer for several years and then passed much too soon.  I miss her intellect, smile and sense of humor.  The second is a dear friend who went through a double mastectomy, traveled to Sloan Kettering in New York City for all her treatments, and is doing great today!  The third is my sister-in-law-who has struggled with melanoma and breast cancer in the last 18 months.  She is doing better at present!  However, it was April VanDervort that asked me to help out and connected me with Komen Columbus.   I find April’s commitment to Komen Columbus an inspiration.

Josh: My grandmother was a big inspiration for me to get involved with Komen Columbus. In 2001 and again in 2008 she was diagnosed with cancer. Watching her struggle and eventually lose her battle with cancer motivated me to volunteer with Komen Columbus and try and improve the lives of others with breast cancer.

What’s your favorite part about volunteering with Komen Columbus?

John: I have done a lot of volunteering with a variety of groups.  Volunteering with Komen Columbus is a unique experience.  I enjoy the professionalism of the Komen Columbus staff, the focus on a common goal, and the sense of teamwork and energy that drives us all forward as one.

Josh: Being able to firsthand see the differences that are being made in others’ lives is my favorite part about volunteering with Komen Columbus. The gratitude that you can see on survivors faces when they have been given lifesaving treatment made possible by Komen Columbus is truly unmatched.

What is the most memorable moment or event you’ve experienced with Komen Columbus?

John: The Komen Columbus Race for the Cure!  After all the meetings, road marshal trainings, race set-up, race day preparations, there is nothing like the Race itself.  Seeing thousands of people moving toward and past you, all with one purpose, the emotions and energy, the pageantry, and all that pink – there is nothing like it!

Josh: The most memorable moment of my Komen Columbus experience is the finish line at the Race for the Cure. I really enjoy watching the survivor chute and seeing all of their faces and the accomplishment when they receive their flower.

When you’re not volunteering for Komen Columbus, what do you like to do?

John: I like to sing in my church choir, play piano, walk the dogs, spend time with family and friends, learn about and collect art, listen to music, and read.

Josh: I am on Gahanna Lincoln High School’s swim team, a member of Gahanna DECA, and work for Columbus Academy Summer Experience.

Local Celebs Stand Together on Race Day

Only something as special as Race for the Cure will cause competing TV and radio stations to join forces. The hope and the lives we can save together on Race day sends competition out the window. Everyone has been touched by breast cancer, including some of our media partners who are yet another example of why it is so key for us to continue funding research, and as only Komen Columbus does, fund local programs to help our friends and neighbors battling the disease.

During the annual Komen Columbus Race for the Cure, we support one another to remember loved ones taken too soon, to celebrate survivors as they continue to fight and to raise money to find cures for breast cancer.

This year, we are excited to have many familiar faces and voices in Central Ohio join us on Saturday, May 17. Each of these local celebs will lend their “media muscle” to make the day memorable for all that come down to participate.

local media columbus komen


“This unity from our media partners is another element that sets our Race a part from others around the country. We are fortunate to have so many media friends rally behind Komen Columbus,” said Katie Carter, executive director at Komen Columbus “We are grateful for their continued support.”

Kicking off the 5K Run and Walk and warming up the crowd will be  ABC6/FOX28’s Maria Durant, Sunny 95’s Stacy McKay and 10TV’s Tracy Townsend.

If you are participating in the Family Fun walk, Stacy McKay will be your host along with ABC6/FOX28’s Alissa Henry.  And when you cross the finish line, 10TV’s Kristyn Hartman and Power 107.5’s Misty Jordan will be handing high-fives to all survivors.

Closing out the day at the survivor ceremony will be 10TV’s Angela An and Mike Davis.

“Each and every one of these amazing people bring something special to Race day,” said Nicolle Racey, director of communication for Komen Columbus, “It’s always a pleasure to work with them and they go above and beyond to make this event special for all participants. We are truly blessed to have them not only as partners but as friends.”

We look forward to seeing you at the Race on May 17th. For Race day information, please check out our Race Info page.


Family History Followed Survivor to Diagnosis

When Susan Hosket’s husband felt a lump in her left breast, she knew immediately it was cancer. Even with a strong family history including both her mother and grandmother being survivors, Susan was still surprised with her Stage 3 diagnosis at the age of 40.

A double mastectomy soon followed, and then 6 months of chemo and radiation

“I celebrated my last day of Chemo on my 41st birthday with all my friends and cake and ice cream. I was so amazed by the support of my family and friends during my treatment.  The hardest part of all of it was telling my 3 boys who were ages 11, 8 and 8.”

Susan's last chemo treatment on her 41st birthday.

Susan’s last chemo treatment on her 41st birthday.

Even though Susan had a family history, 87% of women diagnosed with breast cancer have NO family history. Please help us spread the word that early detection saves lives. The 5-year survival rate for breast cancer when caught early (inside the breast) is 99%. Your fundraising efforts will help us educate women in our community about the importance of knowing their normal.

Susan’s team has already raised $2,400 and has its sights set on $3,500. Support her efforts here.



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