I am an interpreter. Numbers tell great stories. I interpret these stories. - Alison Cossette
For the last 10 years I have worked as lymphedema therapist. My work focused on helping breast cancer survivors manage compromised lymphatic systems after lymph node disection. In 2014, I had started taking C++ when my best friend from college was diagnosed with breast cancer. While spending time with her after her double mastectomy, she shared with me her realization that she would alwasy be "the girl that had cancer". She would never wear her grandmother's watch on her right wrist again. No vacation would ever be the same. She would never go on an airplane again without wearing a compression sleeve. She wouldn't be able to join in the hot-tub. She couldn't go to the spa or get a manicure. (All contraindicated for those with a compromised lymphatic system.) Instead, when she declined, she would be met with sympathetic looks and nods that just reminded her....she was the girl that had cancer. This was a sentiment I had heard from many patients over the years. The mourning of a "normal life". The realization that cancer-free did NOT mean free of cancer.
However, this time it was different. Here I was looking at my best-friend thinking "something MUST be possible." It occurred to me a that moment that the industry had in recent years begun using bioimpedence testing to measure fluid levels in patients. Coupled that with the emergence of wearables and it seemed maybe there was a way.
It is estimate that 20% of patients who have a lymphnode disection will develop lymphedema. However, because we have yet to determine who will develop the condition 100% of patients have to worry about it. 100% of patients must take care to abide by a list of imposing contraindications that can compromise quality of life. Do you wear the restrictive compression garment that is cumbersome to don, or do you not and wonder if you're making a big mistake and asking for trouble? If your limb later swells will you blame yourself that you didn't do all you could?
My commitment to the study of data science is in the pursuit of developing machine learning algorithms that take bio and environmental readings from wearables, to provide individual predictions of the affects of contraindicated behavior on the lymphatic system. Thus allowing 80% of patients who are cancer-free to find new freedom in living free of cancer.