Carolyn Newman's right arm is noticeably larger than her left. She developed lymphedema two years after breast cancer surgery.
"I had 13 lymph nodes removed and as a result of it, I really don't have a filter system in my arm and my arm gets full of fluid. It feels heavy all the time and I'm very self-conscious about it," she said.
Thirty percent of all breast cancer survivors will develop lymphedema, either immediately after surgery or years later.
Rehabilitation specialist Josette Mullins says the reason is simple.
"What the lymph node does is essentially the sewage system of our bodies. It cleanses the fluids that we have."
Think of lymphedema as a backup on the freeway when the number of traffic lanes is suddenly reduced.
In the past, exercise was believed to be harmful.
"The thinking before was if you put too much stress son the arm, it's going to cause more swelling and then your lymphedema is going to get worse,"said Mullins.
A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association finds that breast cancer patients should be lifting weights instead of restricting arm movements.
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania divided women into two groups. One lifted weights twice a week, the other did not.
Women who did the weight training were less likely to have an increase in arm swelling than women who did not do the weight training
Carol's lymphedema inspired her to design decorative covers to wear over her compression sleeves.
Now she's inspired to return to the gym and start working with weights again, something she hasn't done since being diagnosed with breast cancer four-and-a-half years ago.
Researchers believe lifting weights will help breast cancer survivors regain more function and mobility and improve their quality of life.