Learning to Live with Lymphedema

"Yes, I can!  Yes, I will!"
"I wish that everyone with lymphedema would take these workshops"

While there is growing recognition of the impact of lymphedema on quality of life, there are few supportive programs available. The goal of our research team is to adapt and evaluate a series of workshops to foster hope and coping skills for men and women living with lymphedema after cancer.

The national team is led by Dr. Ryan Hamilton, Psychology, University of New Brunswick, and Dr. Roanne Thomas, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Ottawa. Other team members are: Wendy Duggleby, Tom Hack, Liz Quinlan, Anna Towers, and Andrea Tilley who represent Nursing, Psychology, Sociology, Family Medicine, and Physiotherapy.

Our first project consisted of interviews with men and women in New Brunswick and Ontario. These participants are living with leg or arm lymphedema. They discussed a number of issues related to quality of life, such as:  loss of leisure activities and the ability to be spontaneous in leisure pursuits; the challenges associated with compression garments (e.g., visibility, cost); and anxiety about the future. Some participants felt that they had no hope as a result of lymphedema, while others felt that research made them more hopeful.  All participants agreed that a supportive program would be helpful.

Our second project was informed by the information shared by participants in the first study. Using a hope program, as well as materials that were developed by our team members, we offered a series of workshops to cancer survivors in Ottawa. After the workshops, participants reported that they had higher levels of hope and that they had developed or improved their coping skills. They also reported feeling less stressed. All of the workshop participants said that they would highly recommend the workshops to others. Positive comments received from participants appear at the top of this page and below:

This was empowering!

I found the workshops extremely useful. I liked the practical aspects.

I love hope and the idea of hope and I find so much strength in it. 

I learned that I am the most hopeful person I know. 


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