It was tough to watch Firecracker Films’ documentary, ‘The Man With the 132-Pound Scrotum’, which aired in the U.S. on TLC last night, but not because of the graphic content and nudity. Rather, my agony was the result of waiting for a moment that never came: an accurate explanation to viewers of what lymphedema is and how it afflicts millions of people worldwide. On the contrary, the producers depicted lymphedema as simply a “mass” that can be “removed” and be done with, as opposed to the incurable, progressive condition that it really is.
In my promo post about the show, I asserted that there is “no such thing as bad publicity”, when a circus-freak story is used to attract attention to lymphedema. As it turned out, it wasn’t the disease that got the publicity, it was the patient.
I have very little in common with the 49-year-old, 551 lb. Las Vegas resident, Wesley Warren, Jr. and yet somehow I found myself relating to him as a fellow lymphedema patient. First, there was his use of humor used as a coping mechanism. At one point he joked about how his oversized scrotum doubles as his dining room table. Then there was his inventiveness in the face of adversity, like how he wore an upside hoodie instead of pants to keep the scrotum covered. Lastly, there was his longing to do the things he used to do before he got lymphedema, like drive a car.
A self-effacing sense of humor, an imaginative mind thinking up creative solutions to overcome physical obstacles, and a yearning to be normal. That describes every lymphedema patient I have come across. Wesley may have an extremely rare form of lymphedema caused by a freak accident (apparent trauma), but he is definitely one of us.
Firecracker Films gets two thumbs down for their fleeting mention and inaccurate portrayal of a very serious health condition. What a missed opportunity. But Wesley gets two enthusiastic thumbs up for his strength and courage and for smiling in the face of fear.