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Mom and daughter share sickness, recovery

After battling aggressive squamous cell skin cancer in her leg, Mary Johnson receives a massage-like treatment to relieve pain from lymphedema. (Photo credit: WLOS Staff)

"Now, push!"

This massage-like technique is how Mary Johnson gets pain relief from lymphedema, after battling aggressive squamous cell skin cancer in her leg.

This is also the way her daughter, Dawn Lovelace, notices a reduction in arm swelling following breast cancer.

"That's what lymphadema is, it's swelling," explained Sarah Compton, PT, a certified lymphedema therapist at St. Luke's Hospital. "A lot of times the words are tightness, fullness, achiness in that limb that's been affected."

The mother-daughter duo battled cancer only a year apart. They have discovered the benefits of manual lymphatic drainage.

Both women have had lymph nodes removed, resulting in fluid build-up and the need for treatment.

"When I come in, a lot of times I feel really tight up under my arm and where the lymph nodes were, and it's like she'll work it out," Lovelace said.

"It relieved the pain almost immediately to some extent," Johnson added. "It reduces the fluid collected and takes pressure off the nerves."

"It's one of those things you have to manage; you have to treat it," Compton said of the condition. "There's no cure for it, but it is very manageable and treatable."

And as time goes on, the women will learn to treat themselves.


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