Linda's original cancer was staged as "locally advanced". This meant that the cancer had advanced past the breast tissue and had spread to the lymph nodes under her left arm, but not beyond. In treating the cancer, 19 lymph nodes were removed from that side for diagnostic and preventative reasons and the rest of the lymph nodes were irradiated. This left her with a less-than-perfect lymphatic system on her upper left side. I like to think of lymph nodes as gatekeepers which prevent infections from spreading throughout the body and keep them localized. In addition to being extra cautious and trying to avoid injuries (burns, cuts, bruises) on her left arm, we need also be aware of lymphedema.
Lymphedema is a condition where, due to blockages or deficiencies in the lymph nodes, the body can not properly drain lymphatic fluid to/from the affected body part. This can lead to pain and swelling in the limb and once it occurs, it has a tendency to become a chronic condition. It is definitely something we want to avoid. To date, Linda has had no symptoms *knocks on wood* of lymphedema but we are always weary of the potential. Such a case arose on our recent trip to San Francisco. In flight cabin pressure changes affects our bodies in odd ways and one of those is a movement of fluids to/from the extremities. With Linda's compromised lymph nodes, it was suggested that she wear a compression sleeve and glove to minimize that flow of fluids in her arm. She was fitted for both and we were ready to fly...almost. Today's heightened airline security means that the metal detectors at the airport have been set to "extra-sensitive". Sensitive enough that any metal such as a belt-loop, watch or perhaps a metal breast tissue expander port could set it off. With doctors note in hand, we headed to the airport. Turns out Linda's foobs didn't set off the machine.
If you've ever flown Southwest, you are familiar with their unassigned cattle call seating. Basically, 24 hours prior to your flight you can check in online. The earlier you check-in, the earlier you board and the better chance you have in getting an isle or window seat. As a frequent AA passenger, I forgot about the mad online check-in rush that happens @ 23:59 before your flight. Sadly, by the time I checked us in, we were in the last boarding group. 2 middle seats in 2 different rows was not how I wanted to start our romantic getaway and, with no kids in tow (remember: romantic getaway), we had little chance of family preboarding...but we did have the compression sleeve! With the sleeve, glove, some fumbling for the boarding passes, and a little extra gravitas on Linda's part, we left the check-in counter with a medical preboard envelope. I'm okay with the implications on my/our Karma. It's not like we ousted some really sick kid from their seat, we just got to board first...but just in case, on our return, I made a donation to the Humane Society of Williamson County for some balance ;)
And by the way...San Francisco is an incredibly beautiful city and is the perfect place to fall in love again. I recommend it highly.