My second night here was the worst, when the infection just seemed unbearable. I could actually feel it growing, feel the skin stretching as something from within percolated and pushed upward and outward, a slow but inevitable enemy encroachment toward the King’s domain. I decided I much preferred a cockroach in my ear: true story, but some other time. I also decided to take charge of some imagery. I know some cancer patients choose things like Pacman or spaceship lasers to take down tumors. This militaristic image was always at odds with my belief that we not see our body’s failings as an enemy to be defeated, but a defection that can be repaired with love and understanding. But not tonight. Tonight it felt like war. I could hear Picard’s famous words. I wanted this seemingly unstoppable invader out!
I pictured the bacteria as dark drooling ogres and my neutrophils as plucky underdogs who got the job done with teamwork and collaboration. I pictured them pulling the net down and out from my ear canal, dragging the ogres away. A moment that has always held a strong emotional impact for me was the scene in Finding Nemo when all the tuna swim down together and bit by bit the net weakens and they are freed. After a few moments of focus, I felt a shift, a reduction of pressure. Something was alleviating that tennis ball in the ear sensation. Nerves in the ear are very sensitive so I felt every subtlety. Eventually I was satisfied that enough had changed and though the ear was still enflamed, I felt I had gained some control. The next day was one of my better days. Until that following evening when it happened again. Frustration. It’s hard to stick to the mantra I Can Heal Myself if things keep getting worse. I need some light to crack through to tell me something is working.