Today marks the start of Lymphoedema Awareness Week (March 4th – 10th) and since I am currently in Osaka, Japan, I thought I’d recognise the occasion with a local form of poetry called ‘haiku’.
I know, how very cultured of me.
The idea of these short poems is to give a brief window into what life with lymphoedema might look like. They are merely my thoughts and interpretations of the condition, some personal and some observational.
Please give up my seat?
Hidden underneath my clothes
I can barely stand
Lymphoedema is often a discreet condition. It can be hard to talk openly about it, especially in public.
One leg like a tree
The other thin, like a twig
My skin rough like bark
For me, one leg is double the size of the other. Without regular skin care my skin turns rough and sore. For many, both legs and arms are swollen with lymphoedema. For others, the swelling can be in their neck, hips, stomachs, genitals and just about anywhere across the body.
First, it was cancer
Then, my arms started to swell
What’s happening to me?
Lymphoedema is an unfortunate consequence of cancer, in particular breast cancer. After a hellacious cancer cycle, many patients are forced into managing a permanent condition they’ve never even heard of.
Way up in the sky
Soaring above the ocean
My leg starts to swell
Flying makes for an uncomfortable experience for those with lymphoedema. The pressure causes all sorts of problems.
Take a long time to put on
Stop us from swelling
Our compression garments often receive strange looks. But, without them, we couldn’t function normally if at all. They are a little tiring however!
Something isn’t right
Itchy toes, a dark red foot
Back again I see
Cellulitis is a huge risk for those living with lymphoedema. After the first bout, your chance of the infection reoccurring increases by 80%. The skin infection can quickly become aggressive and septic as I experienced last summer.
What a lovely day
Not a single cloud in sight
Better stay in side
On warm days the heat can be problematic due to increased swelling. For some with lymphoedema, a day in doors is a safer option.
Swollen, stretched and sore
All for a sip of white wine
Now it’s hard to walk
Alcohol causes our lymphatic channels to dilate causing us to swell almost instantaneously.
What’s the matter then?
I’ve put on a lot of weight
Do you exercise?
Due to a lack of understanding from medical professionals, many cases of lymphoedema are misdiagnosed as obesity. It’s time for that to change.
I understand now
What you might be going through
I think to myself
Having lymphoedema has opened my eyes to other people’s situations and suffering.
Have you got lymphoedema or any other medical condition? Why not try writing a few haikus yourself? It’s fun and cathartic, and a great way to communicate your emotions and experiences. You can see how to write a haiku here.