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Some thoughts on health, skinny-privilege, and leukemia

On February 25th, I was diagnosed with Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia.  Now that I am in remission, I can officially say with all the wisdom of hindsight that it was one of the most bizarre and trying times of my young life (I’m 23).  As expected, chemotherapy took an emotional and physical toll on my body, making me physically weak and sending me into a spiraling web of emotional depression.  While all this was normal and expected, what was not foreseeable was the knee jerk reaction of a few family members.  Rather than express the obligatory concern, these new standard bearers for blaming-the-victim managed to muster one pithy statement to my mother: “Does the doctor think she got it because of her “weight problems”?

  Of course, “weight problems” was just code for fat.  And no, I did not get leukemia because of fat.  And although I know my family didn’t mean it as a compliment to my girth, in many ways that would have been easier to take.  As medically unfounded as these comments were, being able to blame something as tangible as “fat” would be easier than admitting to myself that I got a life threatening disease because of that and not the real cause.  The real cause being a genetic mutation that caused my DNA to improperly splice and make my white blood cells attack the body they were supposed to protect.  It may sound incredulous to some, but not everything ...