OUR PRIORITY IS YOU | Click here for Visitation Guidelines

CALL US: 1-304-598-1200

Reduce Pain & Swelling with Lymphedema Therapy | Debbie’s Story

Posted Date: 04/05/2023
Reduce Pain & Swelling with Lymphedema Therapy | Debbie’s Story

Debbie Merrill

As a cancer survivor, Debbie Merrill endured many kinds of cancer treatments. As a result, she developed lymphedema and decided to trust the Lymphedema Management team at Mon Health Wound Care to reduce her swelling and pain to help her get back to doing the things she loves.

Debbie’s cancer journey started in 2007, and she battled several types of cancers including uterine, kidney, and colon. After her cancer came back in 2014, she had genetic testing done where she learned that she has Lynch Syndrome, a condition that increases the risk of many kinds of cancer and causes cancer to happen at an earlier age.

“I found out that I had three primary cancers and that Lynch Syndrome is hereditary, so my children had to be tested and later, my grandchildren will be,” she said. “I started chemotherapy again and they found out that chemo wouldn’t work on my type of tumor, so I started immunotherapy.”

Debbie continued immunotherapy from 2018 to 2021. During that time and after, she began experiencing hip and back pain and swollen legs due to lymphedema, an abnormal accumulation of protein rich fluid in a body part that can be caused by cancer, cancer treatment, or in her case, by the surgery to remove many of her lymph nodes. She mentioned her pain and swelling to Devon Napierkowski, NP, who referred her to Mon Health Wound Care for lymphedema therapy.

Debbie began lymphedema therapy in November 2022 with Erin Hamilton, Occupational Therapist and Certified Lymphedema Therapist at Mon Health Wound Care.

“Each time I go, Erin measures to see the progress I’ve made. My left leg is now back to normal, and we keep working on my right side,” she said. “I feel so much better, we have gotten almost a gallon of fluid out of my legs. I maintain the swelling with everything she has taught me in her ‘toolbox’ and exercise.”

Erin utilized Complete Decongestive Therapy (CDT) to assist Debbie. CDT includes manual lymphatic drainage, compression bandaging, skin and nail care, and a home exercise program. She also educated Debbie on the disease and disease process, as well as how to maintain her swelling on a day-to-day basis.

CDT can reverse years of swelling and chronic skin changes quickly. With CDT, patients also decrease their risk of infection which can quickly become very serious in patients with lymphedema.

“Debbie has taken the education she’s learned and applied it to her everyday routine. She has been so successful with the program because she sees and feels the difference CDT has made in her life,” Erin said. “Losing almost a gallon of fluid has enabled her to walk better, fit into her clothing and shoes with increased comfort, and she has regained her quality of life.”

Debbie is a realtor and native of Fairmont, WV, where she lives with her husband of almost 40 years. Together they share two children and their spouses and four grandchildren. She enjoys fishing, camping, and spending time with her family. She is also dedicated to maintaining her health after cancer and lost over 75 pounds following a Ketogenic style diet in one year.

“Debbie is a tremendous example of how CDT can help patients with lymphedema. She has also been an advocate, teaching and educating others on the disease in hope that she will reach others who are silently suffering. I’m incredibly proud of Debbie’s journey,” said Erin.

“I can’t say enough about Erin, she is so dedicated and takes as much time as you need to ask the same questions! We tweak solutions to get the swelling in my ankle and legs down. We laugh at ourselves as we figure it out together,” she said. “Since I started seeing her, she has become a friend. I always tell my husband if you ever find me passed out, make sure I wake up at Mon Health.”

At Mon Health System, receive care you can trust from neighbors you know. That’s the Mon Health Difference. To learn more, visit MonHealth.com.