Claire Benson, of Whitehaven, received a diagnosis of HER-2 breast cancer in December 2020, discussing her diagnosis she said: “In the week between my biopsy and my results, I went through all the emotions: crying, angry, depression etc. The not knowing for me was the hardest part. Once it was confirmed I had cancer it was like a switch flipped that put me in survival mode”. Claire started chemotherapy in January 2021. After five rounds she had a break in treatment as the tumour had continued to grow. She then underwent a mastectomy followed by immediate reconstruction in the May.

When Claire received her results back it was discovered that cancer had been found in her lymph nodes, so she had further surgery in June to remove all her lymph nodes under her right arm. She then restarted ten more rounds of chemo, followed by fifteen rounds of radiotherapy in the December.

Claire said: “Before I underwent the surgery to have my lymph nodes removed, I was warned that there was a one in four chance that I could develop lymphoedema and what symptoms to look out for. When I noticed that my right arm and hand were starting to look puffy and swollen, I made an appointment to see my breast nurse who referred me to the Hospice at Home West Cumbria specialist lymphoedema nurses.”

Our services can be held in the Therapy Centre in Workington, however Claire was seen at the West Cumberland Hospital as it is where she had received all her treatments and it was more convenient for her. At the initial consultation she had her arm and hand measured to see what the difference was, she continued: “I had everything explained to me including what it was, how it is caused and the best way to help manage my symptoms. Due to radiotherapy, I was told it can take a year to calm down and we set up appointments to do regular lymph massage to help me get it under control and managed. They took measurements and gave me glove and sleeve compression bandages to wear daily that helped with the swelling.”

During this time, Claire experienced some swelling in her right breast, so as well as massage and exercise, a device called ‘LymphaTouch’ was used that gently lifts and moves the skin to help drain the excess fluid. It was also arranged for Claire to see her surgeon to ensure there were no issues with her implant swelling.

Alana, Lymphoedema Nurse Specialist for Hospice at Home West Cumbria said: “Claire is a prime example of how an early diagnosis of lymphoedema can help prevent more serious complications occurring. Claire’s success to date highlights the importance of raising awareness around lymphoedema in the community settings eg. GP surgeries, hospitals, and other health care settings. We are happy that we have been able to help Claire and that she is now able to manage the condition on her own and go on to live a happy and healthy lifestyle. A successful outcome is mostly down to team work and Claire, being the leader of this team, worked hard to follow all advice given. She really is a star and deserves the best quality of life – she’s earned it! ”

Claire is now in full recovery and on the 17th May 2023 she ‘rang the bell’ to celebrate the end of her treatment of radiotherapy and injections.

Claire said: “Due to the information given before and after surgery, as well as the quick referral, my symptoms are mild, and I do daily massage and wear my sleeve and glove to maintain this. The help and advice I received has made it possible for me to maintain and manage any flair ups and has also meant that I have help on hand should I need it. All the staff from Hospice at Home West Cumbria have been amazing, kind, informative and just lovely people.”

To find out more about lymphoedema and the services we provide at Hospice at Home West Cumbria please visit: lymphoedema services.