Sherry Boston, of Royal Oak, takes a stroll in her neighborhood after a successful lymph node transplant reduced the swelling in her right arm, caused by lymphedema, by half.

Sherry Boston, of Royal Oak, takes a stroll in her neighborhood after a successful lymph node transplant reduced the swelling in her right arm, caused by lymphedema, by half.

Photo provided by Robert Ortlieb


Lymph node transplant helps Royal Oak woman regain control, abilities

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published March 19, 2019

 Breast cancer survivor Sherry Boston, of Royal Oak, sits in her home. Breast cancer treatment caused damage to her lymphatic system and painful swelling, but a lymph node transplant made the condition more manageable.

Breast cancer survivor Sherry Boston, of Royal Oak, sits in her home. Breast cancer treatment caused damage to her lymphatic system and painful swelling, but a lymph node transplant made the condition more manageable.

Photo provided by Robert Ortlieb

 Chaiyasate

Chaiyasate

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ROYAL OAK — While Royal Oak resident Sherry Boston had a double mastectomy and breast reconstruction surgery, she called her lymph node transplant surgery, which cut the swelling in her right arm due to lymphedema in half, her “happiest” surgery.

The 49-year-old breast cancer survivor said the condition, a side effect of breast cancer treatment due to the removal of lymph nodes and radiation, caused her so much pain that she was unable to carry groceries or lift her grandchildren.

She said she felt like her life was “out of control.”

While lymphedema does not have a cure and Boston still has some swelling and other complications due to her treatment, she said her quality of life is much better following the transplant of a lymph node from her shoulder to her right wrist Nov. 9, 2018.

In December 2015, Boston was diagnosed with breast cancer, and in February 2016, she had a double mastectomy.

“You just don’t know what to expect. I could have taken (the cancerous tissue) out of the breast or just taken one off, but I talked to my mom and decided I didn’t want to go through it again,” she said.

The double mastectomy included the loss of three lymph nodes — two in her breasts and one in her right arm. The damage to the lymphatic system resulted in lymph fluid being unable to drain.

“The pain didn’t come until at least a year later. It was after my chemo and after radiation when I started noticing it,” she said. “It just started with a little bit of swelling, and then I went back, I think, two months later and they said it was lymphedema.”

She began to wear a therapeutic sleeve and glove during the day and wrap her arm at night. The swelling cut off the circulation in her fingers and right hand, and she also felt pain in her elbow.

“It was uncomfortable and painful,” she said. “Wearing the sleeve and glove definitely made me feel self-conscious.”

During a follow-up appointment for her breast reconstruction, Beaumont microsurgeon Kongkrit Chaiyasate noticed Boston’s sleeve and swollen right arm and hand. One of a few surgeons in the state who performs lymph node transplants, he offered to perform the procedure, according to a Beaumont press release.

“Lymphedema is one of the most-neglected medical conditions. The treatment options are limited,” Chaiyasate said. “While a lymph node transplant is not a cure, it can dramatically reduce a patient’s swelling and improve quality of life.”

Boston said she was thankful that Chaiyasate introduced her to the treatment option and that four months later, her swelling is down by 50 percent.

“If you look at pictures before the surgery and after right now, there’s a big difference. I’m happy. He’s an amazing doctor,” she said. “The pain is a lot more manageable. I do wear the sleeve, but not all the time, and I do wrap my arm at night.”

She said she is grateful to be able to take control of her life again and especially to be able to pick up her grandchildren.

Call Staff Writer Sarah Wojcik at (586) 218-5006.

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