A few years ago, I picked up Jeanette Winterson’s book Written on the Body and fell in love like never before. I have three favorite novels, and this one is definitely one of them. This won’t be a book review, because I don’t believe in book reviews. I think you should always just read the book, love at first sight and all. There was a beautiful passage about illness and knowing your lover is being robbed of her body. We read the pages out loud, mesmerized by the words and the way the author described what was happening – the body attacking itself, Cancer, like MS, like so many diseases that invade, rape, and eventually annhilate. So here it is:
In the secret places of her thymus gland Louise is making too much of herself. Her faithful biology depends on regulation but the white T-cells have turned bandit. They don’t obey the rules. They are swarming into the bloodstream, overturning the quiet order of spleen and intestine. In the lymph nodes they are swelling with pride. It used to be their job to keep her body safe from enemies on the outside. They were her immunity, her certainty against infection. Now they are the enemies on the inside. The security forces have rebelled. Louise is the victim of a coup.
Will you let me crawl inside you, stand guard over you, trap them as they come at you? Why can’t I dam their blind tide that filthies your blood? Why are there no lock gates on the portal vein? The inside of your body is innocent, nothing has taught it fear. Your artery canals trust their cargo, they don’t check the shipments in the blood. You are full to overflowing but the keeper is asleep and there’s murder going on inside. Who comes here? Let me hold up my lantern. It’s only the blood; red cells carrying oxygen to the heart, thrombocytes making sure of proper clotting. The white cells, B and T types, just a few of them as always whistling as they go.
The faithful body has made a mistake. This is no time to stamp the passports and look at the sky. Coming up behind are hundreds of them. Hundreds too many, armed to the teeth for a job that doesn’t need doing. Not needed? With all that weaponry?
Here they come, hurtling through the bloodstream trying to pick a fight. There’s no-one to fight but you Louise. You’re the foreign body now.