By Carolina Heza for Unsplash
By Carolina Heza for Unsplash

The Wolf’s Invasion of My Body through the Years

The Wolf’s Invasion of My Body through the Years

Author’s Memo

In 1995, I was diagnosed with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). The experience was extremely difficult and it took many years to write about it. The best way to share what I experienced was through my poetry. Within the context of the poem, I tried to explain what was happening to my body and what I was thinking throughout this period.

People who have Lupus go through so many challenges. We deal with the fact that our own immune system is attacking our organs and live our whole lives boosting it to keep ourselves healthy and away from germs and infections, and then find that it is responsible for our potential death. We also must deal with all of the things that can cause a Lupus flare; specifically the sun and stress.

By Callie Gibson for Unsplash

The Wolf’s Invasion of My Body through the Years

I sit in the waiting area of the dentist’s office facing the window,
watching a mother with three children as they play musical chairs
sliding in and out of a bright blue van adjusting themselves just right
for optimal safety, tears leaking from my eyes.

I slouch nervously in a doctor’s office chair awaiting an answer, looking at
my hands twisted, bloated, stinging, skin stretched painfully to its
limit, while nephrologist crusader in a lab coat snuggles
warm vials of my blood against his scrotum,
darts across the street filled with holiday emptiness to
get instantaneous results while my skin continues to expand.

I settle into a hard, plastic chair listening to unwanted results,
“You have lupus,” the doctor tells me. “Must begin Cytoxan,
probably won’t have children.”
Tears become lava, spilling from fissured stone, my own
choices taken from me, I become that five year old
child stopped on the sidewalk, tricycle not allowed to go to forbidden streets.

“You have lupus,” the doctor tells me. “Must begin Cytoxan,
probably won’t have children.”

I lie on a green, corduroy couch, six months a wife, six weeks a soldier at war
ambushed by antibodies, generals coordinating
land control operations within the vicinity of my hardened kidneys,
immediate mission requests allow assault fire
‘til military intervention is delivered via Cytoxan, Prednisone
herbal teas of nettle, red clover, dandelion root., Pau D’ Arco, green tea.

I rise up in the slippery tub screaming, my hair grasping at fingers, follicles
excised from my head, wet towel falling toward the floor, fine strands
held hostage laughing at my distress, I knew this would happen,
the rigid belly, expanded waist, spherical face, dark circles under the eyes.
As the counterpuncher, I slip; fall through the frayed ropes bleeding.
Following a long line of boxer mishaps, my corner man flees the boxing ring.

I stand in front of the mirror in Vegas trying on dresses for a wedding,
gazing at my imperfect reflection hour after hour, my mind
rejects the image, this peculiar woman
clump of clay distorted; guinea pig lady screeches she has had enough.
My mom grabs my elbow, size 8 gown, steers me toward the front door
hands me off to my sister, melting into desert sun’s heat, spontaneous combustion.

Two years later my Lupus goes into remission, antibodies pack their bags,
jump on a United plane and hustle up to Australia
leaving me with a head of newly grown hair, Masters Degree
in Education, and time to evaluate the loss of an unborn child while
I survey a mother with children at the dentist’s office,
psychic tears stumbling down snowbanks, insufficient to soften the pain, lost souls fade.


Image by Callie Gibson for Unsplash

Featured Image by Carolina Heza for Unsplash

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Shelley Nation-Watson was the co-host of Wordslingers, which aired on WLUW FM from Loyola University. She has been published in many poetry journals including Wisconsin Review, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, The RavensPerch, Copperfield Review Quarterly among others.

  1. The author portrays her disease as a wolf inside her because it causes her immune system to attack her organs in order to stay healthy. She adds that the best way for her to share her experience is by writing a poem. Many people that may be going through the same thing or even a different disease should always find their own way of telling their story just like the author. There are many people in the world that feel like they do not belong because of some disease that they carry and because of that they stay hidden and don’t tell others about their story feeling that no one will care. Though we’re all different and may not have a certain disease, we should all care for those with diseases and help them find their way of telling their story to inspire others to not give up because they have a disease. If we can stand together to help those that aren’t fortunate to have good health, we can make a difference in parts of their lives mentally and physically. The well being of others is important because without being strong and healthy, we cannot affect the economy in any positive way.

  2. Wow. Being a person who lacked any knowledge on the effects of Lupus, your work has truly opened my eyes. After reading your poem, I was able to see why you would describe this disease as a wolf, yet I was still curious on what landed you on this animal. I was impressed when I did some research to learn that the in Latin Lupus means wolf. I noticed how in every paragraph but the last you begin them with an “I”. When I see this, it reminds me of you claiming that this poem is yours, because just about everything else in your life has been taken by Lupus. It isn’t until the last paragraph that you begin it with another letter, not because you have fully escaped any pain of the disease, but because you have been given a rest due to the remission. What I was curious about was how this information was relayed to you by a dentist rather than your average healthcare provider. It wasn’t until I did more research to learn that Lupus can fully affect the mouth, and made the connection that the “wolf” can leave marks on the face that a dentist would understand as a symptom. Once again, incredible work.

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