A is for

This summer, my uncle (on my mom’s side) was diagnosed with primary amyloidosis. As far as I can understand (and I may be wrong), amyloidosis is a disease in which the body produces proteins that cannot be broken down; and over time these proteins deposit in various places around the body, eventually causing organ failure. The Mayo Clinic pamphlet I read said:

While amyloidosis has many types, the most common is a disease of the bone marrow called primary systemic amyloidosis. Bone marrow makes antibodies that protect against infection and disease. After performing their function, these antibodies are broken down and recycled by the body. In amyloidosis, cells in the bone marrow produce antibodies that cannot be broken down or recycled. These antibodies build up in the bloodstream. Ultimately, they leave the bloodstream and can deposit in tissues as amyloid.

My uncle died this morning. He was vulnerable to organ failure and to a whole host of diseases due to his weakened immune system, but ultimately he bled to death, internally.

For the last couple of weeks, I had been writing things about him in my moleskine, just jotting down lines that I was going to string together into a poem at some point. I can’t write it anymore, so I’m just going to put it out there as it is. I don’t think I can finish it, at least not now. I don’t like it, but it’s all I can do for him.

He was the most awesome uncle ever, and was just generally a great guy. His funeral is on Monday. Please pray for my mother, who has already lost a brother to cancer, and of course, for my uncle Andy.

He is in the ICU, they tell me
He’s got tired yellow eyes
Dragging his bruised voice behind him
The ragged voice of a broken prizefighter
Talking clinically about his own rebelling body
The disease inflates his yellow, jaundiced skin
Infects organs with disorganization and anarchy

Do I know this man?
Once we were the fighters, he and I
He made me the featherweight champion of the world
He let me box him into the bloody burgundy carpet
As my mother laughed from her ringside seat
On the couch that my grandmother thought was called
A davenport.

Now it’s not a tiny girl
But tiny proteins
And his own body. This disease,
Born in the USA, inside his bones
And exported to vital organs
These proteins, now unrecyclable
His body litters itself

He can’t dance away from the words they throw at him now
Words like:
Stem cells.
Amyloid protein.

I am connected to this man by blood
By bone marrow
But I don’t know him when he’s in pain
I don’t know this man without his laughter
And I can’t afford to understand the consequences

As dust settles through his veins, undissolvable
It’s won the title from me
It’s the new featherweight champion of the world
Or at the very least, of my uncle’s fragile body.


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