Haikus for Lymphoedema

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.



Photography by Maria Molinero, Unsplash


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.



Photography by Pan Xiaozhen, Unsplash


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.



Photography by Pablo Heimplatz, Unsplash


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.



Photography by Leio Mclaren, Unsplash


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.



Photography by Derek Huang, Unsplash


Compression garments

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!



Photography by Martha Dominguez, Unsplash


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.



Photography by Fedrico Giampieri, Unsplash


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.



Photography by John Jennings, Unsplash


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.



Photography by Jennifer Burk, Unsplash


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.



Photography by Volkan Olmez, Unsplash


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.

Lymphoedema: Swelling, Signals & Spectrums

Lymphoedema confuses me.

For years it has baffled medical professionals, so I think it’s only fair that I also struggle to grasp it. Just when I think I’ve got it all figured out, when I am convinced all is well, and just as I smile with confidence that I won’t let my condition define me, my leg says “no Josh, back in your box”.

Not literally of course that would be ridiculous. Although, I do find myself talking to my leg as if it could feel emotion. Feeling sorry for it if I get frustrated or blaming it after a bad leg day. Bizarre that.

Lymphoedema is incredibly sensitive. Too much of this or that and it’s time to rest. “This” being anything and “that” being almost everything. Diet, exercise, sleep, stress, posture, commute, sun exposure – you name it, lymphoedema loves and loathes it.

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