Livin’ That Lymph Life

Having gone through my own share of C treatments- chemos, surgeries, and radiation sessions- I feel that I should have been more informed about the oh-so-important Lymphatic System. But the only real info I had was that surgeries (where lymph nodes were removed) and radiation treatments can cause lymphedema- swelling due to the altered flow of lymphatic fluid.  It’s something that never goes away and can have a significantly negative impact on one’s quality of life.

It wasn’t until I attended the Be Well Yoga for Cancer Recovery Teacher Training that I truly started to understand why we ALL should care about this amazing part of our bodies- diagnosis or not.  I’m so impressed by the lymphatic system that I find myself constantly fitting fun facts and ways to improve lymph movement into convos with my yoga students, my friends, family members, strangers… really, anyone who will listen… and now you!

The lymph system is pretty much the body’s sewage system. It’s like a one-way highway- a network of tiny channels that form a passage for lymph fluid to travel throughout the body- with stopping points (lymph nodes) along the way that act like trash cans.  In the lymph nodes, lymphocytes and antibodies hang out to sort through waste, searching for and removing toxic cells, dead cells, bacterias, viruses, and other foreign elements.  The lymph system then irrigates potential threats out of the body via body waste.  If the potentially dangerous cells are not removed from the body, the lymph node enlarges as a sign of infection and the rest of the immune system is notified and comes to kick some ass.

Lymph nodes are located in places like the mouth, nasal passages, neck, arm pits, and groin areas. But the largest and main lymph node is the thoracic duct.  It’s located behind the heart and lungs along the spinal column and runs from the top of the lumbar spine to the base of the neck.

So, why did I just completely nerd out on the lymphatic system?  Because all of that info was totally fascinating, right? Mind blown (poof!) And because, as important as it is to our health and immunity, this system does not have a “pump” to keep this crazy-necessary fluid moving. Instead, the lymphatic system relies on muscles, movement, and gravity to get lymph fluid moving.  Nuts, right? So it’s up to us!

Now you’re thinking “But how? How can I get this super important stuff moving?”  Oh, man. I’m glad you asked!

Breath

Simply by breathing we stimulate the flow of the lymph, and through full, deep breaths we can encourage the flow to be both cleansing and powerful. Full breaths create muscular movement and massage the thoracic duct.

Diaphragmatic (deep) breathing:

Begin by breathing in slowly through your nose, pushing the stomach out. The chest should remain relatively still on the inhale.  Slowly let your breath release out through your mouth. Full and slow diaphragmatic breathing for even just 5-10 rounds will circulate lymph fluid and oxygenate blood.

Before starting any of the exercises below…

Begin with a few rounds of diaphragmatic breathing.  Then bring your ear to your shoulder and on the opposite side, place your palm or flat fingers above the collar bone on the side of the neck.  Gently stretch the skin down while counting like a waltz~ 1-2-3 (about 5-10 times). Repeat on the other side.

Think of it this way, if you don’t open these main drains before getting the lymph moving, it would be like pressing from the bottom of a toothpaste tube with the top on… it will have no where to go. 

Movement & Yoga

The lymphatic system depends largely on muscle activity for its circulation. Though, we tend to spend a lot of time sitting, whether it’s at a desk, in a car, on the couch… and all of this sitting can lead to stagnation.  Fortunately, even minor movement can help.   Remembering to take breaks throughout the day to walk around and stretch can be really beneficial for your lymph system AND your overall wellbeing.

Yoga can help maintain lymph fluid movement via gravity (inversions), utilizing body positioning to reverse pooling of lymph fluid in the lower extremities.  Yoga also increases lymph flow with postures that cause large muscles to contract and relax- encouraging lymph to move through the body.  

Legs up the… whatever you can find. Just get them up!

Gentle self-lymphatic massages can be added to various poses to aid the flow of lymph fluid. Try very gently running/dragging the fingers from wrists towards armpits on the top, sides, and bottoms of arms- massaging near the armpits (think- while in Warrior II), as well as very gently dragging fingers from ankles to pelvic area (on all sides of the legs) and massaging around groin / hip creases (think- Staff Pose).

Lymph massage… don’t forget to massage the hip creases!

Dry Brushing

Dry skin brushing also promotes lymphatic drainage and is said to include additional benefits like refreshed skin and reduction of cellulite.  It’s best done few minutes before a shower, using a natural bristle brush.

Stand in your bathtub or shower so all of the falling dead skin doesn’t land on your super sweet bath mat.  Using long sweeping motions, begin brushing at your feet, moving upwards towards your heart.  All brush motions should go towards the heart area. No need to press hard because the lymph system is close to the surface of the skin.  After you have brushed your whole body, hop in the shower.

Dry brushing is best done naked… but this ain’t that kinda site

Fun Facts:

  • About 4 liters of lymph fluid is moved through the body and eliminated each day!
  • The body has between 501 and 700 lymph nodes- varying from person to person.
  • Where there are veins, there are lymphatic vessels.  The cardiovascular system and lymphatic system run parallel to each other .
  • The thymus is a super important part of the lymphatic system.  It is where the T-cells are generated which help to destroy the naughty cells that get flushed out.
  • The thymus is located behind the sternum, between the lungs and can be stimulated by tapping or softly thumping in that area 20-30 times.

Sooooo…. Have I peaked your interest in the lymph system?  Are you as fascinated as I am?

Are you ready to live that Lymph Life?

The contents of this website are for informational purposes only and are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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No Nips- No Prob (Don’t read this if seeing me topless offends you 😂)

Do I have perky breasts? Nope. A flat and fit tummy? Nah. Long and flowing hair? Not even close. But is my heart filled with love? Completely. Is my soul beaming with hope? You’re damn right. Do I know how strong I am? You bet your sweet ass.

The picture below is raw and it’s not wrapped up in a pink bow.

It’s only been a year since my double mastectomy. About 9 months since completing radiation. And about 8 months since my total hysterectomy. My body is still healing and adjusting- same with my mind and soul. But I will not let what has happened to me, define me. Nor will I be ashamed of this picture. The scars are just part of my story and I’m proud of me. (Even though I had to convince myself that it’s ok to share this pic.) Why I questioned myself is a whole different post in itself…. Another day

If a female body with no nipples and a chest that’s a bit con-caved bothers you, well- I’m not sorry. This is what I am working with these days. In my C community, scars are the norm. In my home, we don’t blink an eye. In fact, I often wonder if my boys will be confused one day…… in a very very very long time…. when they see another woman with breasts and nipples. But I mean, like a reeeeaaaallllllly long time from now. 😆

So if you are like so many who have questioned ‘what it looks like’ – here you go.

This picture was taken in Sedona, Arizona- a place that I thought might be all hype even though I hoped not. I heard it was ‘healing’ and all that jazz. For a moment I wondered if it would heal this frickin sinus infection that has been plaguing me for two weeks. It didn’t. But what it did do- holy crap you guys- it began to heal my soul. I left there feeling so connected to myself and totally recharged. Maybe it was spending more time in nature half naked. Maybe it was spending time with people I loved. Maybe it was the vortexes. Maybe it was the crystals. Maybe it was the wine….. Maybe it was a mixture of lots of stuff. I don’t have the answer. But I still feel amazing from it. And to add to the healing, we were able to spend time with John’s family and some of my family along the way. I truly believe that surrounding yourself with love and positivity heals us more than we realize. 💜

On our way out to AZ, I got a call from my oncologist. I panicked answering the phone, thinking I missed an appointment or something. Instead, she asked me if I would be interested in speaking at Kaiser’s National Cancer Survivor Day on June 2nd. My response- absolutely! I have no idea what I’m going to say but I’m pretty excited about it all! So if you’re in the area and want to see me freak out (and possibly pee myself) about speaking in public. Come on by! It will be a good time for all.

Last update for today- about a month ago, John, the kiddos, and I headed up to Culver City so I could take part in a Cancer Survivors Photo shoot. The amazing ladies from Luna Peak photography really know how to make a gal feel goooooood. They did my makeup, styled my hair and snapped some of the best pics. We even got to get some family shots which (you can tell by their outfits) we didn’t plan for. But they are so us! And I so am grateful to have those moments captured.

Sometimes I wonder if you guys get sick of my gratefulness and positivity. But for real, I mean, it’s not always unicorns shitting rainbows over here. We all have bad days- remember that. And those days are ok to visit. Just as long as we don’t live there. I just try and focus on the happy as much as I can. Yeah? Yeah.

Mamas got this 💜

A letter to the ladies 

Dear breasts, 

The time has come to say goodbye and go our separate ways. We have been through so much together, so it’s going to be tough going on without you. But I will be ok. 

You made yourselves known pretty early in life and I wasn’t ready. I hid you in tight sports bras and baggy t-shirts. What else could a 6th grader do? 

By the 7th grade, we were on better terms. I had learned to live with you guys. That’s what it was, we were just coexisting with each other. I never felt comfortable letting you shine in all your glory. As I got older, even my mom would say “flaunt them while you got them!” Who knew that one day I wouldn’t ‘have them’?! Not me. But I was always so self conscious and I kept you under wraps for a lot of the time. 

Then you really outdid yourselves at our wedding. Schwing! Thanks for that! I mean, it took a handful of ladies to control you that day and smuggle you into the weirdest contraption of a bra so that you could really strut your stuff. And you both looked fantastic. 

You went on to feed my first born for 13 months and for that, I am beyond grateful. I had planned to use your skills for my second baby but that wouldn’t be the case. But I know you tried. 

We’ve been through thick and thin. You know, thick like my freshman 15 and sophomore 20. And thin like our half marathon days. Get it? Thick. Thin. I hope I’m still funny without you. 

You are a part of me and it will be an adjustment going on without you. But you’ve had a great run. And me, well, I have to keep on keepin’ on. You’ll always have a place in my heart. I’ll never forget you, probably mostly because I’ll have some pretty crazy scars to remind me of where you once stood. 

Thank you. I love you. Now it’s time for you to go. 

Sincerely,

Jessica 

A few of the glory days