My husband’s appearance has changed dramatically since his stem cell transplant. The donor’s cells he received to replace his cancer ridden immune cells and “cure” his cancer see his body as a foreign body and attack, in his case, his skin. The donor’s cells are on a search and destroy mission and any organ such as his liver, eyes, intestines, or kidneys are fair game. The donor’s cells are just doing their job, after all, they are in a foreign place, somebody else’s body. This process is known as graft vs. host disease and one of the major risks of a bone marrow or stem cell transplant. When the target is the skin it can be particularly devastating both physically and emotionally. Doctors try at all cost to avoid graft vs. host disease, but for some transplant recipients and their families it becomes an inevitable part of their lives.
I came across this poem the other day. I have witnessed the stares, over heard the comments, and explained more times than I can count why my husband looks so different than before. After all the explaining, I’ve come to realize that no matter the reason what really matters is not the “why” but as the poem’s author writes, “give me your smile that’s true and bright, walk with me through each tomorrow, don’t shun me out of fright.”
I wish I could give the author credit, but they signed their poem Anonymous.
Am I So Different
Am I so different because I’ve lost my hair,
is that the reason you feel a need to stare,
am I so different because of things I cannot do,
does that really make me less normal than you,
Am I so different, so different from you,
is making me uncomfortable a pleasure for you,
if my looks are upsetting to one and all,
just try and remember that my life is no fun at all,
You see me like this and wince as I pass by,
never once do you notice the tear in my eye,
it’s not illness or pain that makes me cry,
it’s your stares and snide comments as I walk by,
So, please, I implore you, take this to heart,
I am truly human, not a species apart,
this illness is my burden, a heavy one too,
if not for a misfortune, this me could be you,
My life is now a battle,
this cancer I must fight,
your cruel and hurtful prattle,
pains me day and night,
instead of pain and sorrow,
give me your smile that’s true and bright,
walk with me through each tomorrow,
don’t shun me out of fright.
Copyright © 2011 Jeannie Moloo. All Rights Reserved.
Jeannie, This is both beautiful and heart wrenching. I was driving home from a workshop in Maine yesterday and heard a new country song about a husband speaking to his wife going through cancer. I cried as the lyrics were so touching and thought of your family. And for some reason, this poem reminds me of my college roommate who was burned badly in a lab explosion and people use to stare and avoid her. I wish we all had more empathy and compassion. Thinking of you!
Thank you Dianne for your thoughts. I heard Martina McBride’s song the other day too. Beautiful song.
I think so often of you, Nasir and the kids. Kendra was kind enough to send this to me.
I don’t have your email. Can you please send it? Otherwise, I’m in the process of sending snail mail and I wish you good luck with my hand writing! All my love, Brie