In this blog I describe my experience of treatment in Singapore. I also share some tips I learned along the way. If you wish to skip to the tips, jump about half-way down the page to the section titled “Tips from Veronica”.
Amidst the chaos of Mt. Agung’s “imminent” eruption (it still hasn’t erupted), our flight to Singapore was cancelled. As tourists relaxed on the sandy beaches of Indonesia’s glorious coastlines, the volcano exhaled a giant puff of ash and with its molten breath the airlines stopped all flights in and out of Bali. Luckily for us, my gut instinct kicked in (superhero Josh to the rescue) the day before meaning we got away just in time. Instead we headed straight to Malaysia, although a couple of weeks later we would find ourselves in Singapore anyway having the most wonderful time.
At a later date I will share my day-to-day experiences of the various countries I’ve visited over the course of my travels however, for this post in particular, I would like to focus on the treatment I received for my leg in Singapore.
The Masso Institute, Singapore.
Before we left the UK I posted about my upcoming travels on a lymphoedema support group. Someone kindly dropped me a tip about the Masso Institute in Singapore and said to check them out should I need treatment. It’s just about the only place in South East Asia to receive lymphoedema care, so, if you’re ever in that part of the world make sure to keep them in mind.
The clinic, run by a lady called Veronica, is quite small and unsuspecting, sitting in a sort of student shopping mall (when you see it you’ll know what I mean). It’s clean and cool, and the relief of knowing you’re in good hands (note the non-intended pun) settles across your body the moment you walk in.
Reassuringly I was asked to fill in a medical form and soon after I made my way into a treatment room where an assistant measured my legs. The results weren’t great as Veronica made very clear and with a teacher-esque authority, she began to interrogate me as to why I had allowed my leg to become so fibrotic. Before the appointment I thought I was doing quite well, but, after an hour or so with Veronica, let’s just say the standards of self-care I had set myself increased somewhat.
I had been meandering around Singapore with a solid, heavy leg during the days leading to my appointment. In all fairness I had been hiking in Malaysia so I think I was still recovering from that! Needless to say the leg wasn’t too comfortable, and when I showed Veronica my stockings and demonstrated my usual exercises she responded with this…
“That won’t do a thing, you might as well have nothing”.
You see, my then compression garment was not up to the job. It was old, unfitted and not strong enough. My leg was far more swollen than before I left the UK (due to various factors) and so wearing my usual garment was fruitless. Same with the exercises. The pressure I was applying was too light, it needed more force. Luckily for me Veronica had a new, much tighter garment lying around in my size, as well as a few tips for the road.
She put me in the pump which was just what I needed. I had never been in one that wrapped around my torso as well as my legs before. It squeezed me so tight I felt light headed!
The appointment was fantastic. I learned so much about treating lymphoedema in my short time at Masso. Veronica is extremely knowledgeable on the subject and a skilled therapist too. Let me take you through some of the bits I learned along the way…
Tips from Veronica
Swimming pools: Now then, most of us know that a dip in the water is great for treating lymphoedema. Swimming is wonderful, but actually hydro-walking is the best exercise for us lymphies. The pressure of the water in the depths of the pool stimulates our lymph flow, forcing the lymph up from your feet. Not only that, the pool is nice and cold making it an ideal counter to intense, hot weather.
Tip: When backpacking try and find a hostel close to the sea. If you can’t, find an apartment block or hostel with a pool. I would tend to pick an apartment over a hostel for hygiene reasons. We found this place for £30 a night:
Ice-packs: Now, in the extremes ice isn’t great for us lymphies. But, in small doses, ice can provide a really easy way for quick relief. Some of the more popular backpacking destinations involve braving hot climates which can make things unbearable for those with lymphoedema. If you purchase yourself an ice-pack, you can put in your hostel/apartment freezer and cool your leg down in moments of need. Wrap the pack in a tea-towel and stroke up your leg gently. Don’t put the pack straight on your limb or it will be too cold for your lymphoedema.
Tip: Don’t worry, if you forget an ice-pack, just buy an ice-tray and empty the ice into a plastic bag and tie it up.
Get a shift on: Contrary to the former consensus amongst lymphoedema therapists, to shift lymph, in particular fibrosis, one needs to be firm when performing self-massage. Stroking a fibrotic limb will not do anything as I found out. Use the edge of your hand, and pull down your limb (towards your groin or pit) with enough force to really feel it (not too hard though!).
Tip: Purchase a massage tool like the one pictured below. I picked mine up for 20p in a Thai market. It makes things a little easier and is small enough to fit in your rucksack.
Essential oils: If, like me, you are an advocate of herbal remedies then this one is for you. Using a combination of essential oils, including frankincense and myrrh (shout out to the wise men), Veronica has created a formula that prevents cellulitis. In fact, after testing it for nine years, not one of her patients had a bout of cellulitis.
It wouldn’t be fair for me to list the ingredients, so if you wish to get your hands on her formula, please get in contact with her directly through the Masso Institute website.
It was a real pleasure to meet Veronica. If ever I should be back in that part of the world, I would gladly pay the Masso Institute another visit, not only for treatment, but to see a new friend too.
Visit the Masso Institute at www.massoinstitute.com
Been to any other lymphoedema clinics in Asia? Let me know!