• 10 January 2023

I have been a nurse for 45 years and can honestly say I still love my job – and love the fact that we are making such a difference to patients and their families.

At the end of every day, I go home exhausted but happy in the fact that our patients are so appreciative of the work we do for them at South Bucks Hospice.

There is a real lack of lymphoedema services in this area, and it’s our regret that, although we offer a great service, we simply cannot help even more patients due to the resources and funding we currently have. There are three part-time staff in the team I lead, including myself, and we know we could treat more patients with more resources because there is a huge demand for our work.

But I also know from the feedback we receive that people are so thankful for the way in which we help them go back to achieving as normal a life as possible.

Lymphoedema is a collection of fluid you get in tissue spaces and it normally occurs after lymph nodes have been removed or blocked due to disease or surgery.

There are several ways lymphoedema may develop – but we currently treat cancer patients or people requiring palliative end-of-life care.

Lymphoedema can be painful and debilitating and cause extreme swelling. Some patients come to us in an advanced stage of recovery from their initial diagnosis but still require our treatment so they can return to a normal life. If you have a swollen leg, you are not always steady on your feet – if it’s in your hands, the dexterity is not the same as normal. Clothing is quite often an issue as well as body image.

The swelling can happen in any part of your body. Treatment can reduce the risk of infection if there is damage to the skin – and we educate patients to the risks and how to care for their skin and do simple skin stroking which can encourage drainage.

We use a gentle process, stroking people’s skin in the direction of flow to the nearest healthy lymph nodes. Simple lymphatic drainage will take about 20 minutes but the manual drainage we carry out by stroking the skin and using our equipment will last about an hour – and you can see how it has a really positive impact on the physical and psychological well-being of patients.

Afterwards, patients are very appreciative. Many have issues with their body image caused by the swelling so it can restrict their social life, but with support and encouragement and funky hosiery they can brave the outside world again. For older people, they can be at risk of falls because they are unsteady if it’s in their feet and legs, so achieving a good balance and building up confidence can keep them safer.

I started my career in nursing in 1977 and have worked in a variety of roles from general nursing to head and spinal injury care.

My calling, however, became holistic and then palliative nursing - it’s complete care. You build a relationship with the patient practically and psychologically, and with carers and the family, and work towards helping them all to have good quality of life.

I have been here at South Bucks Hospice for six years and it is an amazing place – it’s built for purpose and the staff are so welcoming.

Working in a hospice can be sad and it can be joyful, but as a team we embrace all of those feelings - and if somebody does die, we have a reflection of their life and what we have achieved with them and how we made a difference to their living days.

If we didn’t have the lymphoedema service, the community would really struggle even more than currently because there is such a need for it in Buckinghamshire.

I was 19 when I started in nursing and am 64 now – I love doing this job because it means so much for my patients and it can make such a difference to their lives.

If you would like to find out more about our lymphoedema service please email lymph@sbhospice.org.uk.