Do you watch Downton Abbey? Each night, after the slaves go back downstairs where they belong, Lady Cora sits at a dressing table wearing a silky nightgown and rubs gallons of lotion onto her hands while listening sympathetically as her husband, Lord Grantham, blabbers on and on about his dog or whatever else he’s worried about until he shuts up and then they to go to sleep.
Since I take all my cues on womanhood from British period dramas, I understand how important it is to look glamorous even when sleeping. I’ve always made a point of keeping as much outward evidence of this illness out of sight as possible, especially in the bedroom. Partially for my own sanity, but also in an attempt to maintain my feminine mystique.
Pill bottles are easily hidden—the trappings of lymphedema, not so much.
First of all, there’s my giant Lunch Lady Arm itself. While it’s now 78% smaller than it was, it is still bigger than my other arm. Not that my man would ever be likely to see it—it is to remain wrapped 23 out of 24 hours per day. The “gold standard” of lymphedema management is wrapping with short-stretch bandages. That is, the effected limb is kept wrapped, at all times, mummy-style. Let me just say, wrapping with bandages is a total pain in the ass. It’s an awkward thing to do on oneself and all those bandages winding their way up an arm tends to attract both stares and questions from strangers. Once I got the all-clear to switch from bandages to compression sleeves, I jumped on it. I still get questions from nosy, concerned strangers, but my sleek sleeve and gauntlet are easy to put on myself and I can fit my arm inside long sleeved shirts again!
The only problem with the compression sleeves are that they’re too squeezy to sleep in. This meant I was forced to ditch my cool looking sleeve and revert back to mummy arm every night. Maybe if you were in love with an egyptologist this might be a good look, but I think most regular dudes do not find bandages appealing in any way. That in mind, I kept my wraps hidden in a box under my bedside table—only putting them on at the very last minute before falling asleep.
Now there are special sleeves made to sleep in and when I say “special” I mean “expensive.” I’m talking in the $500-700 range. They cost that much because they’re custom made to measure. I wouldn’t think twice about spending that much on a dress or a pair of shoes but a hideous medical device? Puh-leeze. No freakin’ way. However, I recently learned that prêt-à-porter sleeves are available for a fraction of the cost of the couture versions. “Self,” I said to myself, “This is what we have been waiting for! So long hideous bandages!”
Finally, the day came when my new night time sleeve was delivered. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I joyously ripped open the package to find . . . a gigantic, royal blue four foot-long oven mitt. (pen shown for scale)
Oh, but that’s not all. The oven mitt was accompanied by a . . . medical green rubber spiked dishwashing glove?
Apparently, since the oven mitt is a non-adjustable, tightly-fitting garment, the other arm (the one putting it on) needs to have an especially tight grip in order to help lodge the effected limb down fully into the garment. That’s what the rubber glove is for. In this Faustian bargain, I had traded a demure pile of soft bandages for a quilted cylinder the approximate size and length of a tube of gift wrapping paper and one stinky, ugly rubber glove. Neither of which I imagine any man would want to discover in a bedside drawer nor on the body of his sleeping partner.
Since it can’t be rolled or folded, I store the giant oven mitt way up on the top shelf of my closet and the dishwashing glove lives in my former bandage box. When bedtime rolls around, I stealthily snatch up the rubber glove and step into my bedroom closet, closing the door behind me. I put the rubber glove on my right hand and hold my oven mitt between my knees, shoving my left arm down as hard as I can while pulling up with my right. Once I’ve wriggled into my oven mitt I burst out of the closet; jumping into bed, slam dunking my rubber glove into its basket and pulling the covers up over my shoulders in one graceful motion. Sort of.
Overall, I’d say the oven mitt is worth it. It’s not sexy but it does the job it’s supposed to. On the bright side, if there’s ever a late night house fire, I will use my oven mitt to open red hot windows and doors with ease.
This is my oven mitt. I ordered from Bright Life Direct and saved a few bucks of the MSRP, but be aware their shipping is s-l-o-w as molasses. Having lymphedema sucks but even worse, is that treatment (and necessary items such as bandages and sleeves) are not covered by Medicare—and thus, any insurance companies. The Lymphedema Treatment Act is a proposed federal bill, which will change Medicare Law and set a precedent of care for private insurers to follow. You can help by visiting http://lymphedematreatmentact.org/.