Dangly earrings. Funky shoes. Vintage scarves. It's not unusual for the fashion-conscious to be known for a signature accessory.
For Ginny Heinrich, it's a compression sleeve.
"I would rather have people look at my arm and say, 'Oh, that's cool,' instead of 'Oh, what's wrong?' " she said.
The 46-year-old Macalester College librarian always wears one of her half-dozen wrist-to-shoulder elasticized sleeves to manage her lymphedema.
Diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer at 37, Heinrich developed the condition six months after mastectomy surgery.
"My arm was the size of my leg. It's gone down in size, but it's never gone back to how it was," she said. "It never will."
Compression sleeves, which keep lymph fluid flowing, often are prescribed for women with swelling in an arm. Those with swelling that extends into their hand often wear fingerless gloves or gauntlets.
Until a few years ago, compression garments came in one color, medical beige, and looked like support-hose for the arm. But manufacturers have begun producing fashion sleeves. Heide's Mastectomy Store in Edina stocks dozens of sleeves in patterns and bright colors. The most popular option resembles a full-arm sleeve tattoo, according to LaBeigha Riser, a fitter and lymphedema specialist at the Southdale Place store.
"Women love having these choices," she said. "But some still prefer the standard style. They think it makes their arm less conspicuous."
Not Ginny Heinrich.
"Since I have to wear it, I like to show my personality," Heinrich said. "Why wear anything boring?"