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Primary & Secondary Lymphoedema Online & in the Community

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I’ll start with a confession.

I am obsessed with gloves. I think about them pretty much every day.  And I spend hours looking at them; in shops, online, on other people …     So when did this begin?

Well, it all began when I had my first Lymphoedema clinic appointment back in 2015.

“Of course, you will have to wear gloves to protect yourself from scratches when you’re gardening,” the Lymphoedema Nurse said kindly, when I had stopped crying after seeing the compression garments I was going to have to wear.

“And you’ll need to be more careful when handling your pets,” she added, looking at my notes about my recent cellulitis resulting from a cat bite.

I remember mumbling something about getting some gardening gloves, and that was it -the start of my ongoing quest … to find the perfect protective gloves for every activity. The problem is not easily solved, it seems.

So, I started with gardening. I’ve spent hours in garden centres, examining and trying on gloves… Are they big enough to get a compression glove inside one and still be able to bend my fingers, without being so big that my other hand is unable to hold anything? Are they robust enough that thorns will not penetrate? Will they keep the dirt out of any unnoticed scratches?

Security cameras will have recorded hours of a strange woman hanging around in the glove section, repeatedly trying on different gloves. When visiting new garden centres, other people may head for the tempting displays of beautiful plants, or the tea room. I scurry to the garden accessories shelves and investigate the gloves. After all, a new, more perfect design may have arrived since my last visit…

I have bought many pairs, but I think it is fair to say that the perfect solution has not been found…yet.

If it was only gardening, perhaps my addiction would be less serious – but I am an outdoorsy sort of person. The things I like to do are inherently messy and, it turns out, are compression glove-incompatible. I need gloves for every activity!  Even my job is problematic. I am a primary school teacher. I’ve lost count of the days I have had to take off my compression glove because it got covered in paint, or water, or worse…

When I was first diagnosed with lymphoedema I was very downhearted.  It seemed to place impossible restrictions on my life and threaten the very things that had kept me positive following the cancer treatment. I tried to carry on ‘as normal’, but dry skin on my hands added to the problem and I have had several bouts of cellulitis probably as a result of infected cracks in my skin.

So perhaps it is not surprising that this obsession with gloves has evolved. If I can find gloves that will enable me to continue to enjoy the activities which contribute so much to my wellbeing - then life can be ‘normal’, or at least a new type of normal.

So… back to the quest!

The perfect glove…

I’m still determined to pursue the fun stuff, but even activities that I don’t particularly enjoy have become important as winter brings even drier skin.

Washing up and cleaning surfaces with cloths need gloves to make them possible.  I have discovered that the only solution is to buy two pairs, so I wear a large size over my compression glove and a medium on my other hand. Pricey maybe, but not as expensive as replacing dropped crockery!

For general cleaning activities I use these ‘gardening’ gloves. They have waterproof finger tips, so are OK for damp cloths but are not fully waterproof, so they don’t get too hot and are flexible. (I find this style of glove very useful but sizing issues mean that compromises have to be made between fit and dexterity … or buy two different sized pairs.)

A really important feature is that they are machine washable, so the inside and outside can be kept hygienic.

 

I keep some of these handy for emergencies. I am not keen on disposable gloves because of environmental issues, but sometimes they are the best thing for the job. I keep some in the car, in my handbag and in my rucksack when I am out walking.

Recently, I was ridiculously excited because I discovered that you can buy gloves specifically for painting! These brilliant gloves saved my compression glove from paint splashes when decorating the bathroom. I had been wearing washing up gloves, which were far from ideal because my hands became very sweaty inside them after a while. I’d tried cotton gloves, but they just got soaked in paint, so these were a fantastic find!

I found these beauties at the garden centre in January and they are almost perfect for my Outdoor Learning sessions at school during cold weather. They are really warm, tough and have waterproof fingers. The downside is that I keep losing them when I take them off because they are black. (Fortunately, the children have been quickly trained to spot them!)  

The other downside is that I can’t fit my compression glove inside these size 8s. They should also be brilliant winter gardening gloves, so I am looking for a second pair for home and allotment use, in a bigger size…but of course I’ll have to try them first!

When birdwatching and on the nature reserve – I’ve been using this rather natty combo. In cold but dry weather, the hand /wrist warmers are sufficient over my compression glove, and allow me to use binoculars easily.  When it is wet or dirty, I wear a pair of the Showa ‘gardening’ gloves underneath, so that my fingers are protected but can still grip. If my fingertips do get cold, I sometimes wear a thin pair of thin fleece gloves under the wrist warmers instead of the gardening gloves.

In the summer I shall go back to carrying the gardening gloves in my rucksack, in case I have to handle anything.

Last autumn, I thought I’d found a winner with these gloves – which covered my compression glove brilliantly and were SO comfortable.  Then I went on a Harvest mouse survey and encountered burdock seed heads…

I think the seeds are dry enough to pick off now. When fresh, the hooks of burdock are stronger than Velcro! I’ve had to wait three months to tackle them!

Burdock and thorns aside, I think gloves like these will be my favourites for general walking/birdwatching adventures when I just need protection from dirt, splinters and minor scratches.  They are just so comfortable over the compression glove. Briars do some they call ‘Profession’elle’, which are more padded than these and seem super comfy. I haven’t bought any yet, but I have tried them on.

Each new activity has to be assessed for its glove requirements and then if gloves are needed a new search begins!

Summer gardening is still problematic with a need for protection, breathability and flexibility – all in a size that will accommodate a compression glove and still enable me to grip small plants… I have not yet found the solution. Have you?

So, the next time you are in the garden centre, or DIY store, or supermarket, or even charity shop and you see a middle-aged woman loitering by the gloves in a suspicious manner; don’t call security, say ‘hello’ -because it is probably me.

Suzanne

 

About Suzanne

I am a 56-year-old primary school teacher, living in Oxfordshire. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010 and had a mastectomy and chemotherapy. I subsequently had a TRAM-DIEP reconstruction in 2013 and some minor adjustment operations followed. I still take Tamoxifen.

I noticed some swelling of my right hand in 2013, but was only diagnosed with Lymphoedema after a bout of Cellulitis following a cat bite in 2015.  I wear a compression glove every day and should also wear a sleeve. However, I find the sleeve really uncomfortable so I tend to only wear it when I am doing exercise such as gardening or on longer walks.

I am passionate about nature, and spend a lot of time birdwatching. I am an RSPB volunteer warden.

I also enjoy singing and acting, and perform in shows with a local theatre group. 

I have two cats, three chickens and a very untidy house!

Suzanne has been a member of  L-W-O since January 2016

 

L-W-O © 14th February 2018

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