Lifting and carrying

I’ve just come in from doing a small (not weekly) shopping in Asda but it did involve a 5lb bag of potatoes and and a 4 pint carton of milk. I now pay attention to the way I pack my shopping but I would like to raise the question what actually constitutes heavy?

Since having BC and my Mam having a hip replacement we have come to realise that there is a lot of medical advice given on the basis of ‘too’… don’t sit too long, don’t carry anything too heavy, don’t stretch too much etc etc

Hi lilacblushes

not the answer you are looking for but may be we should be using those trolleys on wheels ? - assuming we still have a good arm …

just food for thought …

love FB xx

I was told a kettle containing enough water for one cuppa was the limit.

Jackie x

Hi Jackie
Initially I was told something similar by the BC Nurse but found the muscles on the arm were becoming really flabby from not being used.
I was then told by the physio when having treatment for cording that ---- whatever I used to carry or do before I can still do as long as I work up to them gradually. She did ask me about racket sports but I don’t play them.
I was given a BC dvd of exercises to do and that uses weights as part of the programme !
So I carry on as normal but I do make sure that I avoid long periods of carrying with the affected arm swapping from side to side.

M x

… just remembered something - the trainer talked about not tiring the arm - and said it was a pesonal thing…

Fair comment FB - but then I would need to carry it up the stairs to the flat.

As for nothing heavier than a kettle with water then I’m done for …my handbag weighs more than that and I’m not a taking a huge bag!

Incidently, my 1st post-op encounter with a needle proceedure earlier this week and the woman doing the isotope injection was told my right arm was out of bounds… she replied ‘oh there really is no risk at all you know’ but added that she understood patients felt more comfortable with not using the arm that is at risk.

… it would be funny if it wasn’t so serious ! … absolutely appalling that these people are so unaware …it makes me so angry that never having met this woman I want to stick her needle where the sun doesn’t shine … !!!

sorry about that
love FB xx


I must admit that I am naughty and pay no attention to what I’m lifting…I carry on as before.

Sheana x

lol - u go girl… I have to say that she was not in any way trying to make me give in and let her use my right arm, she was right up there with respecting the patient’s choice and said she appreciated our line of thinking when we have been told by surgeons and other specialists that it’s ano-no

even after she copped a look at my left arm and saw she had a challenge on her hands finding a vein to use she did not try to bring the right arm into play and she was brilliant and calmed me down after I threw a hissy fit so I will let her off with her comment.

It’s such a shame that with all the crap and stress and confusing medical info we have to deal with we then have conflicting information on what is can and what is can’t.

Give me chicken pox any day … now that was simple, stay in til you ain’t spotty any more!

When I saw my bcn because I was worried about my surgery side arm feeling heavy and reluctant to move, I asked what was too heavy to carry. She picked up my handbag and said well that for a start!

Now that is a problem as when I need to get anything out of it I’m not very good at rummaging with my left (surgery) hand. So she said I must put my bag down, and use right hand.

So … if you see a woman in the street with her bag on the pavement rummaging about and swearing softly - that will be me.


lilac - I know just what you mean - how heavy is too heavy? How often is repetitive? It’s all so flippin’ vague!

I suppose we all get to know our own arms and what they will tolerate or object to. I know I can help my OH shift firewood for a couple of hours at a stretch if I do it in small quantities, but carrying shopping in a bag is almost imossible with one of my arms. I think it is because a swinging weight puts more stress on the muscles.

I have to say that I gave up on 4 pint milk containers (even tho’ they were cheaper), as it was not only unpacking them that was a problem, but taking them in and out of the fridge, too! Had to switch to 2 x 2 pint ones.

When I pack shopping, I try to pack it into more bags than usual, so that when I unpack the car (assuming OH and sons not around) the bags are pretty light. I might have to make more trips from car to kitchen, but I can live with that. Sometimes I even ‘dribble’ heavy items down the hall!

I can cope with a half full kettle. If I’m having a ‘bad arm day’, I might fill it in stages with mugs of water to get round part of the lifting problem.

I still do ironing, in short bursts using both hands, but with no water in the steam compartment, to keep the weight down. (I use a spearate spray instead). I never thought I’d feel possessive about my ironing, but being able to cope with it using these methods stops me feeling such a wimp and is good for my morale in a weird sort of way…

I’ve got a ‘healthy back bag’ for heavier items, when I’m shopping, so my arms get a rest. Doubles as rather untrendy handbag, too.

Good on you for standing your ground with the injection, lilac. It must be maddening tho’ to be told to protect your arm by BCN and specialist, only to find that the people you most have to protect it from are their colleagues. There is a lot written about ‘educating the patient’ when it comes to lymphoedema - I wish some of that effort could be directed towards health professionals, too.

X to all


Hi everyone

I found it really frustrating after surgery with conflicting info as to what I could or could not do with my arm so had a search around the net and found the following site.
The the initial exercises were brill and but also the latter strengthening ones which actually refer to an amount of weight that you can pick up. My physio seemed to ‘teach’ along similar lines. See what you think.

Google ------- bc cancer exercises ------- it should come up as the first site

M x

Hi Lilacblushes

Good to hear you are still questioning people.
Have cut and pasted the advice I was given from my physio about how much to lift (if you want a paper copy of the risk assessment document whisper me your address and I’ll pop one in the post)

As each person is different she didn’t give hard and fast rules but suggested we “risk assess” everything we did so starting with how does my shoulder feel today? Am i putting more strain than necessary by stretching/ using an extended arm? could i do this a different way and how long am i going to do this activity for?. One of the examples she used was lifting the food mixer from the top shelf of a cupboard (so could someone else doit? could i get nearer so i don’t have to stretch and put less strain on my shoulder? could i Leave the food mixer on the wrk surface?) Certainly after her talk i looked at things like using my affected arm to pull down the car boot (i was using my good arm to hold bags etc) carrying things close to my chest, and using my good arm to pull open the stiff fire door at work rather than the bad one.
When i first wrote this I was 3 weeks post rads and doing some painting and decorating in short bursts with rests.Today 7 weeks later I’m up ladders painting the ceiling. At my last visit to the physio she suggested that I started using weights 1 KG to build up the stamina in my arm and continue swimming to retain flexibility. did try weights a few weeks ago but hit a brick wall but have started again. The physio expects me to be back doing my usual routine in the gym eventually providing I listen to my shoulder. sometimes it is only when you’ve done something that you realise it was not a good idea so you have to learn from that give it another week and try again.

Lv Crispy

Hi All

I think Crispy’s point about 'you don’t know what you can do ‘til you try’ is a v good one. Just because we have to be careful and find different ways of doing things, this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t attempt them in the first place.

I think as well that we need to be careful, when chatting, to differeniate between an arm that is in the post op recovery phase, an arm that is at some point beyond that (but still ‘normal’ ) and an arm that has been diagnosed as lymphoedematous. Obviously, some things apply to all 3 arms.



I had surgery to remove 23 lymph nodes of my right arm (real bugger as I am right handed) 9 days ago the week before I had a lumpectomy and two lymph nodes removed one being the sentinel that unfortunately had cancer in it hence the whole clearance. The other 23 were clear do you think I will need chemo? aswell as radiotherapy and how long is it before the bloody pain of the arm starts to get better. I am finding that 7 pm is my total switch off point to being able to do anything as the shoulder and side feels so stiff and painful aswell as feeling spongy My arm feels numb and weird how long does that last? Also it all sounds a bit horrific that I will not be able to use the arm as I did before particularly as I love gardening and am always carrying heavy items around. So any ways to protect it would be appreciated.


Hi All

I recommend the shopping trolley, my daughter joked about me buying one after developing lymphoedema so i went and got one and now i would’nt be without it and it makes shopping so much easier ( once you’ve got used to steering it round the supermarket and avoiding peoples ankles!!! )
Mizzy xx

i think it depends on the extent of the lymphodemia as to how much you can do , careful assessment of everydy tasks is what you need ,i find that a little gardening is enough for me these days and as to digging thats a no no now! i have an upright hoover now ,it easier than the pull along cylinder one .i fill the kettle with just a cup of water at a time so its not so heavy .and when im sitting down in the evening always have a cushion under my bad arm to rest it on. going to pysio today ,shes doing acupuncture on my good side to try and balance my strength up .not sure how that will work but its worth a try .


I won’t go into the chemo or not issue as I was one of the lucky ones who didn’t need it - just 6+ weeks worth of rads!

The pain in the arm - well I had my surgery on 25th Jan and my arm, although a lot better now than immediately post-suregry is still numb. It’s a sort of not numb til you touch it sort of numb if that makes sense. I also get nerve pain - nasty stingy comes out of nowhere pain - which lasts for a few seconds, I understand this to be the nerves trying to repair themselves.

I know it sounds like the arm will never get better and you are never going to be able to do normal things again - but that’s not the case. I am back to work and do my own shopping, housework and every thing else I did before… I just do some things differently now.

I have recently bought myself a hands-free handbag for shopping days [very long strap so goes across my body and sits on front of hip]. Cant carry usual amount of junk but good for shopping days with just purse, phone, keys and lippy and is easy to access unlike a back-pack type.

Had a chemo brain moment when shopping for holiday stuff, first thing I did waas go into Boots and buy bucket loads of sun cream, insect repellant etc etc, weighed a ton and had to cart it round on one side for rest of the morning, thought my arm was going to fall off LOL!!!

I am back at the gym using cardio machines including x-trainer which moves the arms in a skiing type motion, dont use the rowing machine or any of the upper body weight machines but my trainer got me some pilates based upper body excersises which are great as I dont want to give up on the arm completely but have to be very careful.

I do my own ironing although not much as I use the 10 mins in the tumble trick to cut down on the amount I have and as I am back at work full time I do have a cleaner which helps loads.

It is hard when its your lead arm that is the affected one [although if its the other arm there must be a danger of leaving it to wither away] and, being a year on from DX, its also difficult to accommodate the changes without sounding like you’re “banging on” as people dont realise its a life time risk not just a post-surgery risk.

FB - have read your physio posts and found them very useful so thanks for taking the time to put it on.


PS - finished chemo last Nov so really should stop blaming it for my brain dead moments!!!

My lymphoedema nurse said the important thing to remember is not to do anything that strains your arm. There are no hard & fast rules as to what you can & cannot do, it depends on the individual. You need to build up the strength in your arm slowly. There are very few things I don’t do now that I did before - just many things I now do with my left arm rather than my right.

Bevy52 - I still garden, but use my left hand & arm a lot more than I did. I dig carefully, and get husband or son to do anything really heavy. You need to be patient with your arm - it will get better slowly. I had my mastectomy in March 07, and would say it was about a year later that I realised that my arm no longer felt weak. It still aches at times, but not very often now.