WSVN — It’s hard enough to go through breast cancer but once women are done with chemo and surgery, many often face another unexpected hardship. A condition where their arm swells up with fluid, and makes life debilitating. For years, women have been told there is no permanent cure but tonight, 7’s Danielle Knox shows us hope in a surgical savior.

After surviving the horrors of breast cancer, Mary Carrillo thought she’d been through the worst of it.

Mary Carrillo: “It’s tough to go through that. So once you’re done, you think it’s over and then you try to move on with your life the best that you can.”

What the 52 year old didn’t know is she would soon begin living another nightmare.

Mary Carrillo: “I started having my arm swelling up. It was heavy, more than 10 pounds.”

Mary has what’s called lymphedema in her right arm.

Mary Carrillo: “A lot of us have this. That we have to deal with this for the rest of our lives.”

It’s where fluid builds up in the arm as a result of damage to lymph nodes and the lymphatic system during breast cancer surgery or radiation therapy.

Lymphedema can appear months or even years after treatment ends.

Dr. Elizabeth Tan Chiu: “It is the lack of lymph nodes that essentially created the back flow of that fluid in that arm. It’s awful. You see one arm looking like an elephant arm, and then the other arm is normal.”

Mary is forced to buy clothes several sizes bigger to fit her one arm and she has difficulty even raising it.

Mary Carrillo: “Lifting anything. Pots and pans. I just can’t. Brushing my hair is a nightmare.”

But the worst part, she says, are the stares from strangers.

Mary Carrillo: “It does hurt because they are looking down at you like you are something out of the ordinary. It’s rough, it’s rough. Sorry.”

For years, the only treatment has been massage and compression sleeves, but no permanent cure.

But Kim Haley, a Broward breast cancer survivor who has become a patient advocate in our community, met a doctor in France who has an answer.

Kim Haley: “It reverses all of this terrible disease. I was smitten by it.”

French doctor Corinne Becker pioneered a procedure to transplant healthy lymph nodes from one part of the body to another and she is now bringing her revolutionary treatment to South Florida.

Dr. Corinne Becker: “So the nodes we are taking and re-implant are living.”

Dr. Becker and Dr. Christopher Low, a reconstructive plastic surgeon in Plantation, will now be working together to perform surgery on South Florida lymphedema patients.

Dr. Christopher Low: “For me to have that skill set to potentially help them or to cure their disease is really exciting.”

Kim Haley: “These women have been to hell and back and we’re going to be able to help.”

After years of suffering, Mary is thrilled and anxious to get the surgery.

Mary Carrillo: “Everybody tells me that I survived cancer, but it’s not the same. Having this and I will have it back. I will have my life back.”

We’re told Mary has already been evaluated by doctors here and is expected to get the procedure soon.


Dr. Christopher Low
Tel: (954) 585-3800

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