A group of women stand in a circle, blowing bubbles through small, colorful plastic bubble blowers, and giggle. The laughter is just as important in this class as the stretching, toning and dancing that follows.
At first glance, it seems like all fun and games — class instructor Anne Flynn hands out hats and feather boas and leads her students through a series of movements set to fun music. But the class is part of a groundbreaking exercise program called “The Lebed Method,” designed for cancer survivors and patients suffering from lymphedema and chronic illness.
An occupational therapist and lymphedema specialist, Flynn began teaching classes for multiple sclerosis sufferers last October and began implementing her training for cancer patients last month. Flynn said lymphedema is a condition where a person’s lymphatic system has been damaged, especially cancer patients who have been undergoing chemotherapy.
“The lymphatic system rids your system of waste,” Flynn said. “When it gets interrupted, junk stays in there. The excess protein causes the skin to become hard and leathery.”
The condition can also cause painful swelling in limbs or other parts of the body. Special garments designed for the condition are expensive, because they have to be custom-made to fit each individual.
“I originally started the class for MS patients who were telling me that their movement was better and their pain was down,” Flynn said. “There’s so many people with pain, and the people who really feel a decrease in pain is the population that exercises.”
Flynn teaches the Lebed classes at Allenmore Hospital in Tacoma and at the MultiCare Gig Harbor Medical Park on Point Fosdick Drive.
The Lebed program was designed by Sherry Lebed Davis and is recognized by the National Lymphedema Foundation. Lebed was a former dancer and breast cancer survivor from Seattle.
“She couldn’t move her arms and was weak from surgery,” Flynn said. “She found that slow stretches and exercises helped her improve tremendously, so she began setting up classes for other people. She took the program out of the mothballs.”
The Lebed Method has since earned national acclaim and has been featured on TV shows such as “Lifetime” and “The Today Show.”
“The Lebed method is widely known in cancer circles and in other countries,” Flynn said.
“It’s great for patients with lymphedema,” she added. “We focus on lymph-cleaning exercises. It’s a series of slow, steady stretches in a certain order. It’s like traffic on a freeway — you have to clear out one area before you can go down the road. This increases the pumping action of the lymph vessels and helps the flow of (the body’s) waste material.”
Flynn’s students will readily vouch for the wonders of the Lebed method: Laura Justice was diagnosed with MS in 2003 and has participated in the class since it started.
“This is something I look forward to every week,” she said. “Anne really started me moving and kept me moving. Her personality is so great. She makes this class so fun, and she’s fun to be with.”
Justice said the no-stress atmosphere of the class helped her relax and enjoy the exercises.
“She lets me sit in the chair if I’m fatigued,” she said. “She lets me work at my level and come in and do what I can do.”
Flynn said that when she took the Lebed training, she saw it addressed many physical problems.
“For cancer patients, their bodies have been their enemy,” she said. “I help them get back in touch with it in a good way. We have 10-minute water breaks that have turned into a support group. The students interact, but instead of being sad, their endorphins are flowing and they’re upbeat and filled with joy and hope.”
Flynn has a history of nurturing and caring, having worked in nursing homes for 11 years. She began specializing in lymphedema treatment four years ago and decided to augment her therapy with Lebed classes and was pleasantly surprised by the results.
“It’s very rewarding to see people improve so quickly,” she said. “I see results in every patient as long as they stick with it. And you don’t have to be an aerobics instructor to teach this class.”
Flynn’s interest in helping others has gone beyond her classes and into a personal hobby to help lymphedema patients purchase special compression garments. A sock can cost as much as $100 to $150 — a glove as much as $500.
Flynn fashions her own custom jewelry and sells it at the Healthy Reflections Boutique in Gig Harbor. The proceeds from the sales are donated to help patients who can’t afford to purchase the garments.
“A lot of people are without insurance, and elderly people are on a fixed income,” Flynn said.
Her jewelry is made from fine silver, sterling silver, freshwater pearls and handmade glass. Flynn fashions the glass into decorative beads and cooks it in a small kiln at her home.
“You shape the glass with torches and rods,” she said. “It’s a lot of fun. I use whatever colors I feel like using that day and the designs are kind of whimsical. When I work, I’m like a kid in a candy store.”
Reach reporter Susan Schell at 253-853-9240 or by e-mail at email@example.com.Photo caption: Occupational therapist and lymphedema specialist Anne Flynn displays some of her handcrafted jewelry. Proceeds from the sales help lymphedema patients purchase costly compression garments.
Feb 21, 2008
The Ledbed Method Helps Lymphadema Sufferers
Here is another article that deals with the excercise program called "The Ledbed Method" I had never heard of it before reading these articles, but it sounds very intriquing - and I'm very impressed that Ms. Flynn sells her jewelry to help lymphadema sufferers purchase compression garments - that's such a wonderful thing to do! This particular article ran in the Pennisula Gateway out of Washington State.