My Body is a Battleground

by Eos EviteAugust 25, 2021View more posts from Eos Evite

When I was in the hospital for induction chemotherapy, I remember telling my dad that my body felt like a war zone. The chemotherapy that continuously ran through my veins for a week was the weapon meant to wipe out the disease that pervaded my body. The prophylactic pills dropped off by the nurses like clockwork were guarding me from foreign invasions that would harm my already-fragile system. The nausea, fevers, lack of energy — collateral damage for the destruction that was meant to save my life, unexpectedly endangered at twenty-nine years old.

My body felt weaker as the battled raged within me. I was dependent on daily blood transfusions for three weeks. Low blood counts were the symptom of my disease, as well as a side effect of the chemotherapy. I had almost no platelets to help repair any damage to begin with, making any trauma visible — like hour-long nosebleeds after getting swabbed for COVID-19 or large bruises whenever I had to be poked for bloodwork or blood cultures after a neutropenic fever. The nurses who helped manage the side effects were putting out the fires, delivering reinforcements in the form of a bag of blood or Benadryl or a warm blanket.

Every blood transfusion let me live another day. For each bag that I got, always from the same blood type, I imagined it was my dad’s, sharing his reserves while I attempted to create mine. Even though he couldn’t visit me (because of COVID restrictions) for the month I was hospitalized, he was helping me, giving me life. Similarly, I continue to be grateful to all the strangers who donated their blood. They’re the reason I made it to induction, as well as making it through every cycle of chemo. Their blood was the major supplement I needed, when my body labored through making my own army of cells.

However, perhaps in a fit of panic and delirium, my body began rejecting platelet transfusions. Despite getting a fresh boost — a fresh army of platelet soldiers — every day, my counts did not improve. Eventually, after tests and trials, my healthcare team confirmed that I have developed antibodies, an uncommon occurrence after multiple transfusions. My body became too protective of itself that it began fighting the help it was getting, simply because it was foreign. I was put through a new course of treatment that would suppress my antibodies, which finally allowed my body to retain the transfused platelets, but also opened the door for a small (but treatable) gum infection that subsided after going in for a dental cleaning that was green-lit once my platelets reached normal levels. The gum infection was a result of below-average dental hygiene — I had to retire my regular tooth brush for a little sponge on a stick because I had uncontrollable gum bleeds. But I had no choice then – did I want to spend a couple hours with gauze in my mouth, or simply use the sponges? Like war, you pick your battles.

And now that the war is over, I am what remains. My hair began growing back, like sprouts amid the beginning of spring. The bruises from collapsed veins gradually faded away. I slowly try to rebuild, uncovering memories of the trauma in the wreckage.

My body was the battleground, and like everyone else before, this one endured to the end. I was one of the lucky ones to make it out alive.

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2 Comments

  • JoAnna Bettencourt says:

    Thank you for this!!! I’m so grateful for you sharing your story!! My son (17) is still in treatment – just finishing Direct Intensive (another battleground!). He described Induction as a video game inside his body – some days he was winning, other times it felt like the chemo/cancer was winning!! Hardest battle ever. So grateful you shared your success story and described the journey with such authenticity. God bless you as you continue on!!!!

  • Tita Girlie says:

    Beautifully written, Ate Eos. I’m so proud of you. I just want you to know that even if we couldn’t keep in touch, you were constantly on my prayers and still is.

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