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A Love Letter to My Immune System

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Dear immune system,

I am unsure whether to blame you for not working correctly, or genetics for saddling the both of us with common variable immunodeficiency (CVID), but I do know that we are in this together. It took me years to accept that you are literally in my blood, and that you and I are inseparable for that reason.

Your failings are not my fault, but they are ultimately what dictates my limitations. Because of you, I cannot travel to countries that require vaccinations, or have outbreaks of contagious diseases.

Because of you, I missed the ninth grade trip to New York, the 10th grade biology trip to Peru, and the 11th grade spring break trip to Europe. You were the reason I could not go to junior prom when my school allowed a girl with strep throat to attend. You were the reason I got pneumonia after going to a concert, and the reason I missed grad skip day in grade 12 because I had bronchitis for five consecutive weeks. It was your fault that I spent multiple family vacations curled up in bed with stomach flu instead of on the beach with my brother.

You are the reason all of my cuts (whether small, from paper; or large, from some sort of mishap given my clumsy nature) get infected and leave scars. My body is a network of brighter white patches from smaller wounds, and angry, raised, red marks from larger ones.

You are the reason I got an ear infection that lasted for seven months when I was 10, and can no longer hear out of my right ear.

You are the reason I am tethered to the hospital. You are the reason I carry penicillin and amoxicillin with me wherever I go, and always have backup prescriptions for antibiotics on hand. If I did not have you, and consequently CVID, I would not have to go to the hospital every month for a plasma infusion. I would not react to the blood plasma that essentially saves my life and spend the next week in bed with a migraine and horrible aches and pains.

You are to blame for all of that.

While I may blame you for those things, but I have also accepted them. Everyone has limitations in life, and while I may not have any control over the ones you and your failed attempts at being a functional immune system throw at me, I am no longer mad that they are there. I can live my life not just around you, not by ignoring you, but with you. I have learned to not only be respectful of your limits and take them into consideration, but to do so lovingly and without a trace of embarrassment.

I have learned to accept and love and care for you, immune system, because while you may have brought me pain and strife and consistent challenges, you have also brought me unexpected joys.

It is because of you and our plasma infusions that I have met so many wonderful people who also have CVID, and it is because of you that I get to see them every month for our shared plasma infusion day. It is because of you and our treatment that I interact with such caring and compassionate nurses.

It came as a pleasant surprise in university in health classes when I realized that I have a wealth of knowledge on the immune and lymphatic systems. You, and your insistence that I require so much medical attention, are responsible for me passing those classes with ease.

You are also the reason I applied for a semi-private residence room, with a bathroom and kitchen, in my first year of university. If I had not had to submit medical documentation to request the newly renovated dorm, I never would have met my freshman roommate or my group of incredibly supportive and understanding friends.

If it were not for you getting me sick on exam days or forcing me to miss classes to go to the emergency room or clinic, I never would have learned how to be assertive and talk to authority figures (like professors, or teaching assistants) about how my health was impacting my time in school.

So, immune system, while you be unable to function as you should, your CVID has not turned into the burden I was warned it could.

I have learned how to love you and our life, and I am no longer just nervous about our future together; I am also excited for life, as I should be.

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Thinkstock photo by eomgaa

Originally published: February 14, 2017
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