Innovative surgery offers relief to lymphedema patient
Suzanne Fountain was enjoying a bubble bath until she discovered a lump. Doctors confirmed the worst; it was stage three breast cancer. “I wondered, ‘How could this happen to me?’” says Suzanne, owner of LexiDog Boutique & Social Club, and an active and healthy person.
During her double mastectomy surgery, doctors removed 19 lymph nodes from her left armpit. Removing lymph nodes disrupts the flow of lymph (a clear, colorless fluid), which can lead to chronic and painful swelling called lymphedema.
“I went through radiation, chemotherapy and drugs and survived cancer but ended up with lymphedema,” Suzanne says. “I had to get used to wearing uncomfortable compression sleeves to control the pain, swelling and to avoid infections.”
Thanks to an innovative surgery, though, Suzanne found some relief. “I wanted to cry,” she says –– she immediately felt the difference.
‘Closer to living a normal life’
Lymphedema usually isn’t curable; however, patients get help through skin care, nutrition and exercise. Those measures helped Suzanne some, but she longed to get back to her usual adventures and hug her furry clients without pain.
She then saw Dr. Mark Gelfand, a plastic surgeon with Legacy Health, for a procedure called “vascularized lymph node transfer,” which involves taking lymph nodes from the groin and transplanting them back into the patient’s armpit. Dr. Gelfand is among the few surgeons in the country and likely the only surgeon in the Portland area doing the procedure.
“This is not a cure,” says Dr. Gelfand, “but it can provide significant relief.”
Suzanne agrees. “Lymphedema reminds you of your cancer every day,” she says. “Now I have light at the end of the tunnel. It may not be 100%, but you’re closer to living a normal life.”
For more information, contact the Legacy Health Cancer Institute, 503-413-8199. Watch Suzanne’s story: https://bit.ly/2XIxBC5
Photo credit: Suzanne Fountain
Photo credit: Vicki Guinn
For media inquires: Vicki Guinn, Legacy Health Public Relations, firstname.lastname@example.org, 503-415-5143