Poem #5: Map, Ode, Metaphor

The original melanoma site after it was punched out and stitched.
The original melanoma site after it was punched out and stitched.

An Ode to a Lymph Node

By Paula Bender

A living map beneath my skin,
Red arteries flowing away, blue veins toward
The heart, command central,
Pulsing between my lungs,
Refreshing, reinvigorating blood cells.

There are backroads as well,
That are no less significant.
They sweep and they catch
Pathogens, fats and delinquents.
My gratitude to my lymphatic system,
Courier of lymph fluid, pathogens, white cells.

And Cancer.

A melanoma took root behind my right knee
Just a bump that I felt before I could see.
Punched out, the biopsy was declared malignant.
I went from Stage 1 to Stage 3 in less than a minute.

Scans for my brain, spine, bones and body,
Gave no indication there were others at the party.
But then a beautiful turquoise dye was sent searching,
Disclosing the pathway that this cancer might have gone lurking.

The dye found its way to my nodes to the north,
A chain of fatty pearls just doing their work.
One lit up, a tell-tale sign,
Gorgeous and blue, this lymph node of mine.
This was the sentinel with a job to do,
It held captive that cancer without further ado.

Microscopic melanoma was enclosed in the node,
Which served as gatekeeper in protector mode.
It had taken the cancer and kept it enclosed,
It kept me from being even more exposed.

People ask me how I found that first melanoma.
I had noticed it for months. But I was going to Kona.
I was busy training for my race: Swim, bike, run.
I didn’t want a little skin spot to spoil my fun.

Days after my race to dermatology I went,
I tore off my clothes and put on a paper tent.
A lighted magnifying glass examined every inch of skin,
While we talked about my decades in the surf and the swim.
I turned around and it was easy to spot,
Soon it was punched out and into a cup it was dropped.

My tale might have meandered.
But my message you see,
Is that maps not only send us to where we must be,
They also can show us what it is that we need.