L-R (pre-COVID): Sharla Walkey, Director BCLA; Christine Chandler, President BCLA; and Lila Reynolds, Vice President BCLA; work towards advocating for those in B.C. dealing with Lymphedema while dealing with Lymphedema themselves. Please note this photo was taken pre-pandemic. Photo: Willa Condy Seymour

L-R (pre-COVID): Sharla Walkey, Director BCLA; Christine Chandler, President BCLA; and Lila Reynolds, Vice President BCLA; work towards advocating for those in B.C. dealing with Lymphedema while dealing with Lymphedema themselves. Please note this photo was taken pre-pandemic. Photo: Willa Condy Seymour

World Lymphedema Day goes virtual this year

It is estimated that there are over 130,000 people in B.C. with Lymphedema

Submitted by Willa Condy Seymour

For 15 years the British Columbia Lymphedema Association (BCLA) has been advocating for those in B.C. that are dealing with Lymphedema.

Read more: Trail event recognizes World Lymphedema Day (2019)

Read more: Day of sharing experiences living with Lymphedema

It is estimated that there are over 130,000 people in B.C. with Lymphedema.

The body has two circulatory systems. The venal system circulates the blood. The Lymphatic system also circulates through the body. It forms a key part of the immune system in our body.

When you have Lymphedema the lymph fluid pathways that circulates through the body end up blocked, causing swelling and can eventually damage the skin.

There is no cure for Lymphedema.

Some people develop Lymphedema after surgery. For many who have had Lymph nodes removed during cancer surgery beat cancer but find they are left with Lymphedema. Any trauma to the body can cause Secondary Lymphedema – even getting a tattoo can trigger it.

Others are born with what is termed Primary Lymphedema. It can appear after birth or later in life. In tropical areas Lymphedema can be caused from mosquitoes carrying a parasite and Lymphatic filariasis is a leading cause of permanent disability worldwide.

Lymphedema used to be called dropsy and some people with Lymphedema ended up on exhibit in side shows.

Early treatment is a game changer for those living with Lymphedema.

Compression garments are considered the gold treatment in dealing with Lymphedema. They help control and if caught early enough slow or reverse the swelling for the patient. Lymphatic Drainage Therapy also plays a key role in helping deal with Lymphedema.

The drawback for many dealing with Lymphedema is the cost involved.

Compression garments are expensive and many people living with Lymphedema end up unable to afford them. Many end up unable to work.

In B.C. there is help for Lymphedema patients only if they develop Lymphedema after breast cancer surgery.

With advancements of imaging and micro surgery for some Lymphedema patients have found a reduction of their Lymphedema symptoms with micro surgery. These surgeries redirect the lymph flow to remove the blockage of the flow.

Other surgeries involve transplanting lymph nodes from an area not impacted by Lymphedema.

These surgeries are game changers for those dealing with this disease. Soon Vancouver will be added to the list that are performing these life changing surgeries.

Having completed an intensive period of specialized micro-surgical training with leading experts in Asia. Dr. Brown, working alongside fellow surgeon Dr Isaac and Dr. Elliot Weiss, a longstanding leader in Lymphedema diagnosis and care, have established a first in B.C., specialized Lymphedema clinic which opened in January 2020.

Currently the clinic is seeing patients for evaluation and help with their Lymphedema. The clinic is on track to start surgeries in 2021.

Even while dealing with the impact of COVID-19 the BCLA and VGH (Vancouver General Hospital) and UBC Hospital Foundation have been actively fundraising for the game changing clinic at VGH and has to date helped raise 64 per cent of the $200,000 needed for the new clinic.

This new clinic is something bright to celebrate in a year clouded by COVID-19.

Unable to gather in person the BCLA is planning virtual celebrations for it’s 15th year.

The list of events are being posted on their website, celebrating World Lymphedema Day on March 6 and then events for the 15th Anniversary and AGM on March 25.

All events will be on Zoom, allowing everyone in B.C. the ability to attend.

If you know of someone with Lymphedema, please contact the BC Lymphedema Association: 1-866-991-2252. Visit the BC Lymphedema Association website at www.bclymph.org.

Join their Facebook page here: BCLA

Donations to BCLA or the VGH Lymphedema Program are welcome and help the volunteers meet our mission of “promoting optimal healthy living with Lymphedema.”


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