Paul’s Support Centre in London offers inexpensive massageFor those who struggle with support garments
In Battersea, Paul’s Cancer Support Centre now has a Vodder-trained Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) therapist. And only charge £45 for an hour’s treatment (normally London prices are at least double that).
Vodder is the Austrian-developed method for MLD, long acknowledged to be the best; Clara Cummings, their Therapist, travelled to Austria to be trained there, and is now working at Paul’s Centre. For anyone who hasn’t tried MLD, it is the gentlest of massages, and works at encouraging the lymph system that remains in the body to drain itself. You undress down to knickers or shorts, then lie back and get blissful, gentle pampering.
The usual way the NHS treats Lymphoedema is to recommend compression garments; sleeves, stockings, gloves or garments covering or compressing whichever part of you is swollen after cancer treatment. But some of us, with cancer drug side effects such as neuropathy, skin problems, swollen joints and other weakness, who can’t manage to pull on the garments, have to suffer in silence.
The first time I managed to pull on stockings took me 35 minutes of struggling. That evening I couldn’t pull them off, however hard I tried – and believe me, I rolled around the floor trying every which way I could. Eventually I got the bread knife from the kitchen and hacked them off – destroying a horrendously expensive pair of support hose in the process. The next time I went back to the clinic, tail between my legs, the Hungarian therapist looked at me in astonishment, saying of course I wouldn’t be able to pull them on, as I had had polio. But none of the British nurses had told me this.
She also said I had a double whammy, as my skin was very compromised (dry and scaly) from the long-term side effects of one of my cancer drugs; so the garments were certainly not suitable.
So she told me I would have to pay for MLD privately, which I did.
I gather one used to be able to get MLD on the NHS, but in one of those sneaky cost-cutting exercises this treatment was withdrawn. Some charities will give you six sessions for free, but as generally you will need MLD for a long time, the six are a drop in the ocean.
My monthly treatment
There are some charities that offer subsidised massage, but sadly it costs me an expensive taxi ride to take advantage of them, so instead I contacted the Lymphoedema Support Network charity, who have a list of approved therapists in most areas.
From this I picked Sossi Yerissian, who ‘suits’ me beautifully. I have an hour’s session with her once a month, which keeps my legs looking a reasonable size. In fact, I can now see my ankles, and am often lost in admiration gazing down on them!
Paul’s Cancer Support Centre
If you are near Battersea in London, try
20, York Road, London SW11 3QA
Who else offers this?
Outside London, there are some charities who offer this – ask around; in Chelsea Age UK are now offering massage at New Horizons for £25 a session on Tuesdays and Thursdays
Cadogan Street, London SW3