Dara Insley was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009 and subsequently developed lymphedema. She has refused to let it slow her down and she continues to be fashionable by wearing compression sleeves by Lymphedivas. A partner of LBBC, LympheDIVAs compression garments allow women living with lymphedema to control their condition beautifully. The fashionable yet medically correct sleeves and gauntlets are available in a multitude of patterns and colors, including commemorative C4YW designs. LympheDIVAs donates $10 from every C4YW sleeve, $5 from every C4YW gauntlet, and $15 from the sale of each C4YW set to benefit LBBC and YSC’s annual C4YW conference. Here is Dara’s story…
It was within a year of my breast cancer diagnosis. At the end of chemotherapy, double mastectomy (without reconstruction, by choice), an upper lymph nodes removal surgery, and radiation, I realized I had lymphedema.
You might call me “determined.” I don’t typically back down from challenges. Perseverance is a requirement for military spouses, and I’ve always had a positive outlook on life. Prior to my cancer diagnosis, I had lost 65 pounds of leftover “baby weight.” Fitness and exercise were my stress relievers during my cancer treatments.
However, lymphedema is a “forever challenge.” It is a lifelong condition that causes swelling and pain in the arm, hand or chest, and most commonly occurs due to the removal of, or damage to, lymph nodes during breast cancer treatment. I must use a combination of physical therapy and compression sleeves to manage my condition daily.
Developing lymphedema is a concern for every breast cancer patient. You survive treatments but live with the fear of getting lymphedema. It is “the gift that keeps on giving.” When I was told I needed to wear a compression sleeve every day for the rest of my life, I knew there had to be something better than the bandage-like, thick, unattractive garment they gave me at the hospital.
It sounds simple, but feeling attractive is so important when dealing with a chronic condition. Luckily, I had heard about LympheDIVAs sleeves, which were not only comfortable and breathable, but also available in beautiful colors and patterns. Attractive attire, even with chronic conditions, can create happiness.
Another element that continues to be critical for my recovery is exercise. For me, it’s more than a physical and mental stress reliever – it’s a form of self-preservation. At 43, I’m in the best shape of my life, but my drive is to try to keep both my cancer in remission and lymphedema in check. Because my form of breast cancer “fed” on estrogen, keeping a very low body fat percentage is essential to keep my estrogen levels down.
I aspire to many goals and dreams. This past June, I placed second in the “Ms. Fitness” category at my first Organization of Competitive Bodybuilders show. In fact, my LympheDIVAs “Damask Bei Chic” sleeve helped with my high-energy, pirate-themed performance! And I have other fitness endeavors planned for my future.
If I could tell my fellow fighters one message, it’s this: No one wants to feel like a patient. Take your treatments seriously, but do what you can to feel in control of your condition. Refuse to wear hospital gowns, if they are not necessary. Wear makeup or clothing that lets you feel beautiful and pretty. Find something, like LympheDIVAs sleeves, to help you with treatment side effects. There is a power of beauty in all of us that will win over the ugliness of disease.
Life is worth the struggle, I always strive to overcome, cope and move forward, and I hope, if you got this far, that you do too. I refuse to let lymphedema slow me down, and I am wishing the same for you.