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I’d like some Bad-Ass Arms, please

boring beige lymphedema sleeve

UPDATED January 31

We won second place with Rosie the Riveter – We Can Do It. I’m excited for a fun design with a motivating message … And I get two free sleeves. Thanks everyone for voting. They changed the design a bit … You can see the final here.



Getting past cancer treatment usually means learning to live with a handful of side-effects treatment leaves in its wake.  For me, the hardest side-effect to live with is lymphedema.  And I’m sick of the ugly medical-grade garments necessary to control the condition to do what I love – particularly biking.

So I partnered with designer extraordinaire Maggie Flynn (who also designed this website) and pro-photographer Mary Lou Harris to create three designs of lymphedema arm sleeves that will be fun and inspiring to wear biking, exercising, in a meeting or on any occasion where something strong and sassy is much more appropriate and something boring and medically necessary.

We entered a design contest for a company called LympheDIVAs to design compression sleeves, and the voting for the top three winning sleeves happens between now and November 29:

Please Vote Here:    LympheDIVA Arm Sleeve Design Contest Survey

Wonderwoman thumbnail
Rosie Thumbnailmountains thumbnail










Wouldn’t it be  fun to go out and about in Wonder Woman Arms?  Or sport a Rosie The Riveter We Can Do It arm when biking to raise money for a cause or running a race?  Or don Beautiful Cascade Mountain Arms for that lovely ride in the country side with the Cascade mountains framing the horizon to the East?  I think so.  And if we win this contest, LympheDIVA’s will manufacture the designs, and I – and other women – will get to wear something fun and empowering.

So … please go to that survey and vote to give us some great Bad-Ass arm choices that represent the spirit of getting on with life – regardless of stupid cancer.

And, if you know other women who have lymphedema, or are at risk and have to wear a sleeve as a preventative, do them a favor and let them know that there are alternatives to ugly medical compression out there.

Thank you!

Want to know more about lymphedema and why these garments are necessary?  Read on.


As many of you know, my breast cancer treatment left me with a special “gift” which I hate more that I hated the treatment itself … a condition called Lymphedema.  Lymphedema means that whenever I exercise or garden or fly in an airplane or go to the mountains or swelter in the heat I have to wear compression garments, including a sleeve, to control swelling in my arm and torso.  It means that it’s almost impossible to bike in the heat, or hike in the high mountains because the combination of risk factors make lymphedema flare-ups almost inevitable.

Lymphedema is a side effect of any cancer treatment that involve removing or radiating the lymph nodes.  It’s particularly prevalent in breast cancer patients where an estimated 35% of patients who  had their axillary (armpit) lymph nodes removed will develop lymphedema over their lifetime.  It causes painful swelling in arm and/or chest when the lymphatic fluid can’t drain properly, instead causing fluid to collect and harden.  The condition is permanent, it can lead to life threatening infections.  It’s painful.  And it hampers quality of life and activities.  Many cancer patients suffer from it, and some people – even children – develop primary lymphedema for unknown reasons in their arms or legs.

Lymphedema flare-ups are brought on by exercise, changing altitude or elevation (flying or time in the mountains at lower air pressure), skin infections or injury to the arm, or heat … anything that causes stress on the body.  Many patients have to wear their compression all the time, every day … not just when they are at risk of a flare-up.  Compression sleeves help control the condition by supporting the lymph vessels under the skin, preventing swelling or controlling existing swelling.

Even though Lymphedema impacts over 3 million patients in the US, Medicare and many insurance companies don’t cover the compression garments necessary to treat it.  Learn more about the Lymphedema Treatment Act sponsored by Washington’s Representative Dave Reichert.  This bill would help patients get the compression they need before their condition becomes life-threatening and keep them active and healthier, longer.

Leigh Pate
Leigh Pate lives in Seattle, WA. She is a two time cancer patient and cancer research advocate, a communications specialist and writer, a nature lover and fan of beaches, mountains and big trees in the Pacific Northwest.