I like to keep on top of what’s what on Planet Cancer, and yesterday I found an article about some research about breast cancer survivors carried out by the University of Alberta. The study looked at the risk of lymphedema brought on by changes in cabin pressure when flying. (Lymphedema is chronic or permanent swelling caused because of a lack of, or damage to, lymph nodes, which help with draining fluid away. It’s a common problem for breast cancer survivors, as treatment almost always includes the removal of lymph nodes from the armpit to see whether the cancer has spread.) And the study found that the risk of lymphodema being brought on by flying is very, very low.
Obviously this is an important, useful and reassuring piece of research. (I don’t think I’ve met a single cancer survivor whose reaction to the end of treatment hasn’t been ‘Right. Enough’s enough. I’m off somewhere sunny. See you in a week.’) But reading it, I realised it hasn’t occurred to me not to get on a plane. I fly short haul pretty much all the time – I’m just back from working in Germany, I’m working in Sweden next month, I’m often on a flight from London to Edinburgh or vice versa. (I may be off to Texas before long, but that’s another – exciting – story.) I really don’t think twice about flying. And, in fairness, although I was given guidance about what to do with my de-noded arm, no-one mentioned anything to do with air travel. (The advice, in a nutshell, was: 1. Make sure you move it. 2. Don’t let anyone give injections into it or take blood out of it, ever.)
Reading the article made me think about just how much I don’t think about breast cancer and how little the effects of surgery and treatment impinge on my life. In fact, I’m struggling to think of things I don’t do because of cancer. I don’t wear heels very much any more, because of the swollen feet. I retired a couple of low cut tops, but I’m nearly 40, so that probably wasn’t a bad thing. I don’t menstruate because of the medical menopause, something I don’t mind a bit.
But on a day-to-day, going-about-my-life basis I don’t think there are any limits, on what I can do, really. Flying included. That has to be a good thing, doesn’t it?