The doctor says my immune cells are attacking my body’s healthy tissue. A message has been misinterpreted along the way: my defense response has gone awry, my immune cells rogue. My own body was annihilating itself. Ironic, uncanny.
I remember all the skills we learned as children to protect ourselves from threats: how to put out a blaze in the kitchen, how to survive a gas attack at school, how to flee from a robber on the street. Learning to deal with an enemy is one matter, but it is another when that enemy is you.
A fire burns inside my belly. Flames rise to my chest. Words echo over and over again in my head. Inflammation. An injection shoots through my skin. Progressive. Translucent liquid dripping in. Dysfunctional. A firestorm, uncontrollable, begins.
I gaze at my reflection in the mirror, scanning for new signs of my lethal malfunction. I see a ghost with bloodshot eyes. Hollow cheekbones I don’t recognize. I could howl in my misery forever: I am too young to surrender, I am too young to die.
People have passed me weighing apples at the grocery store and did not notice. They will pass me again and will never know. That I am dying. That I am killing myself. That my body is a bomb, set to detonate. Deep within the strands of our DNA, why are some of us scheduled to self-destruct? And what if—what if—it was no malfunction at all?
I still enjoy long walks under the sun. I still watch children in the playground as they run. To die, one must also live. I try to keep a calm face, despite it all. But no one will ever know, of the war that rages fiercely from within.