gardening etc after mastectomy

Wonder whether there are any keen gardeners amongst you, who have given up after mastectomy? I’ve had a 2 year rocky recovery after mastectomy, with arm pain and very stiff pec muscle after rads. So I haven’t done anything at all in the garden - and there’s a lot of it to do! I don’t mean gently pottering (can do that!) but actually wielding a fork. This in my book counts as lifting on the mastectomy arm and I’m so paranoid about lymphoedema that I’ve never attempted it. (There is the other half who gets on with it so don’t imagine a complete wilderness). Has anyone else given up on this sort of strenuous exercise or do you think its time to get back out there?? K x

Hi Karis - I’m a keen gardener too and although I haven’t done anything too strenuous mainly because of winter (I had my MX in early November) I am planning on getting out there fairly soon. I’ve got 3 large veg beds which need turning but actually I think I might ask OH to do that particular job! I think that the main concern is getting an infection from a cut or graze which as you would know happens frequently so I will definitely be wearing gloves and probably long sleeves. Might pay to ask your BCN about it though but they do seem to encourage as much use as possible of your arm. Let me know if you get told anything!!


Hi there,

Just to butt in :o) Gardening was my job before BC both times and it never stopped me, you just have to work up to it gradually, not lift thing thaat are too heavy for a while and careful of those cuts etc.

I had full aux clearance and worked about 20 hours a week but never had anything to do with Lymphodema, just don’t get too para noid, it all settles dowm and just take the regular precautions, like gloves!

I got cuts ect but just had a first aid kit in my car and diinfected and covered where ever I had cut myself, I got some nasty ‘Blandford fly’ stings which blow your arm up for weeks but its from an insect so therefore didn’t effect any lymph infections.

Its far more theraputic than anything else I can think of doing so overall, don’t be shy, just get out there and enjoy :o)

Happy gardening

Clare xxx

I think it probably depends on the individual… I had full node clearance in March last year, and have mild lymph. find that even pottering brings my arm/hand up slightly, and that I have to wear my sleeve to do it. Therefore, personally, I would not attempt any digging, but Potmaid is right, it’s a matter of building up gently I think, and see how your arm reacts. You could be one of those folk who aren’t going to get lymphoedema. Just don’t go at it too fast, too hard, and listen to your body… happy gardening! Jane

Ooh pot maid, that,s encouraging. I work as a gardener and had mx with full node clearance in early November, am now having chemo was wondering if I,d ever get back to work. I feel like I,ve lost so much stamina in my arm, I have been doing some gentle exercise, including weights but that makes my chest sore. Wasn’t,t keen on using gloves before but I suppose that,s now a given . Is interesting to see how anyone else has managed, with spring springing I,m keen to get going!
Herbi x

I ‘only’ had a lumpectomy but with full axillary clearance and start my rads in about 10 days …I have an enormous garden (lucky me) and its only half cleared …OH is a reluctant gardener …but said he will do all the digging. I am very nervous about it…I never wear gloves unless i’m clearing brambles.
Also and potmaid’s point was interesting…my garden is right by a river and we get mosquitos (not to mention wasps)in the summer and I always always get bitten/stung by something during the course of the year…was worrying about that…surely lymph fights off insect stings too? Curious.
How about swimming? Can we go swimming…I swim every day from May to September…

Mary M

I only have a small garden, but have been mucking out horses for months! Does that count?

The advice you’ve been given so far is good - start slow and gentle (not too much on the fork!) and build up.

Good luck

I am 4 months post surgery, chemo and rads and have a big garden which is reverting to waste ground. Just started weeding and clearing.
I have been forced to build up to it slowly as that is all I can manage. About 2 hours at a time. I always wear gloves now and especially like Gold leaf Dry Touch Gloves. I got some for Christmas. They are expensive (£18) but mold to your hand nicely and still allow you to do some jobs that require finer manipulation. Watch out for the gap between the glove and the start of your sleeve. I scratched my wrist badly on some brambles. As potmaid pointed out, watch out for insect bites too. I am going to invest in some good insect repellent spray.

Thank you for your thoughts and tips about the gloves - yes, I’d forgotten about the insects and brambles. Got a few of those! Its the spring sunshine tempting me out. We’ve had quite a lot of people round here bitten by these litle black flies, nasty swelling.

I think horses count too. I used to have a horse - happy days.

So I’m going to give it a gentle go, with the gloves, and see how we get on. K x

This is a question I could have asked!
Im currently in the USA with a garden that requires very little care, but when we move back its going to be full on as our UK tenants have been a bit timid about cutting back and weve been away five years! Im thinking of getting help with the initial cut back, making as much as possible low maintenance and maybe the roses will have to go. I will also probably have to rely on someone else to wield the electric hedge trimmer now.
I`ve had quite a lot of lymphoedema, in my arm at first, but latterly in my breast, and been given dire warnings about looking after my affected side. I will have to use stout rubber gloves, but oh, the temptation is going to be irresistible to get going on my lovely english garden again!