The Lymphedema Association of Newfoundland and Labrador aims to spread awareness of the rigors of lymphedema across the province, while encouraging education, empowerment and proper care
Over 15,000 Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are afflicted with lymphedema, with over one million in Canada and 120 million globally.
Incurable and woefully undertreated and underdiagnosed, the Lymphedema Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (LANL) aims to raise awareness of the condition year-round, especially during March, the official Lymphedema Awareness Month worldwide.
“Lymphedema, once it’s diagnosed, a lot of times it goes undertreated and underdiagnosed and those are really key points in our awareness,” shared Terry Walsh-Oakley, a LANL board member, registered massage therapist and certified aquatic lymphatic therapist.
“I’m a registered massage therapist and also a certified lymphedema therapist, so it was certainly something that I would have advocated for at some point,” Walsh-Oakley says of her long-time desire to spread lymphedema awareness throughout the province. “I was lucky enough to have such a strong group of women in that circle who were interested in founding the board and the association.”
Lymphedema impacts the entirety of a person’s life, from the loss of function to a limb, to negative body image, an inability to work as normal or a taxing emotional drain. But the support and information offered by LANL to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians go a long way in helping to quell anxieties surrounding the condition. Said Walsh-Oakley: “It’s underdiagnosed and it’s undertreated. Awareness is key.”
No known cure
Lymphedema is a chronic disease caused by a buildup of lymph fluid, with the root cause stemming from a faulty or damaged lymphatic system.
It can lead to chronic swelling, predominantly of the arms or legs, with primary lymphedema caused by congenital malformation within the lymphatic system, while secondary lymphedema has been linked to damage stemming from surgery, radiation treatment or severe injury, alongside a myriad of other causes.
Newfoundland and Labrador rank highly amongst obesity and cancer rates nationally, meaning our population is particularly susceptible to the condition.
And while there’s no known cure for lymphedema, self-care, Complete Decongestive Therapy (CDT), the use of compression garments and proper education can help aid in the treatment and overall proper coping of the disease.
That’s where organizations like LANL come in with a mandate to empower, educate and encourage.
Impact on life
“Managing is key. I go back to when we talk about trying to get the word out there and the awareness. That’s just so important. We have a support group, we have a website, a Facebook page and information about lymphedema. We’re always trying to raise awareness,” Walsh-Oakley shared.
“Reach out to us, call us, go to our website, email us. Ask us the questions and continue to ask questions.”
For resources and more information visit lymphnl.com, email [email protected] or visit LANL on Facebook at lymphnl or lymphieconnections.