Protesting within the streets would possibly kill me. However when you ask America, we have been by no means meant to reside anyway.
In 2018, on the age of 23, I used to be identified with acute myeloid leukemia ― a very aggressive, quickly metastasizing type of blood most cancers with a excessive mortality charge. In keeping with Most cancers.web, “the 5-year survival charge for individuals 20 and older with AML is about 25%” and “the common age for analysis of AML is 68.” AML makes up solely about 1% of all cancers, and, as Most cancers.ca notes, with out remedy, “survival [for AML patients] is normally measured in days to weeks.”
Clearly, I drew the unusual, mangled brief straw from a bag of equally crappy brief straws.
However one way or the other, I’d held on to my life by a thread for 3 months earlier than anybody even knew what was unsuitable with me. I used to be misdiagnosed by three completely different docs — examined for HIV, mononucleosis, syphilis, chlamydia and each different sexually transmitted illness that non-Black medical professionals thought a 23-year-old, assumed-to-be girl with brown pores and skin might need picked up someplace alongside the best way.
I heard each inappropriate, loaded query below the solar. Image me, sick and touring with my canine in an outdated van from my residence state of New York to Florida, the place my retired mother and father reside. Image me, driving via the night time with out relaxation, hoping that my mother and father would one way or the other be capable to save me ― like younger adults typically secretly do — after which dropping right into a fever for 3 days as soon as I’d arrived, simply to sit down in entrance of extra docs who didn’t seem like me. What number of sexual companions have you ever had? Image me, terrified. Image me, bouncing again to New York as soon as this enterprise had proved fruitless, simply to search out extra blank-faced docs who had extra vital issues to do than assist me ― like go on trip.
I answered each invasive query and underwent each take a look at possible ― apart from the straightforward CBC panel that may have identified me inside an hour.
My analysis lastly got here within the ER after these three lengthy months, after I’d reached the purpose the place I used to be so drained that I needed to sit down whereas having a shower and crawl up the steps, the place the lymph nodes in my neck have been the dimensions of golf balls. I used to be admitted the identical night time to begin chemotherapy instantly, proper after having a Mediport implanted in my chest. Then, over the course of a 12 months, after 4 high-dose rounds of chemo and a stem cell transplant — a process the place the stem cells in my physique have been swapped out for cells donated by my brother — I’ve needed to construct up my immune system from nonexistence. I’m simply now barely arising on 12 months two of survival.
Self-portraits taken by the writer in 2018, throughout remedy for leukemia (prime), and in 2020, afterward (backside).
And, in fact, as a 25-year-old most cancers affected person — a disabled, immunocompromised stem cell transplant recipient — I’ve self-quarantined for the previous few months to guard myself from the worldwide devastation of COVID-19.
However over the previous week, I’ve been experiencing these bouts of paralyzing indecision. Worry. Agitation. A relentless, aching grief, constructing and swelling in me like a illness.
George Floyd. A mild big like my father.
I’ve watched the information, feeling helpless and small. I’ve seen Black girls thrown down within the streets by law enforcement officials. I’ve seen a younger man of colour be arrested proper after telling armed riot police that he beloved them, that they have been nonetheless his household it doesn’t matter what occurred. I noticed him dragged away on his knees.
They’re risking their lives.
Two extra Black males have been lifeless inside per week: David McAtee and James Scurlock. I felt the agitation of most of the white Lengthy Islanders throughout me, on on-line boards, seemingly ready to kill to be able to defend the established order — the agitation of a hunt anticipated. In my thoughts, replaying again and again: Officer Derek Chauvin’s knee on George Floyd’s neck, and his calm, indifferent demeanor, like he’d trapped a wild deer beneath him as a substitute of a human being.
This sense, blowing up like a darkish balloon, rising till it burst.
We’ve been risking our lives all alongside.
Till the stress inside me spilled out. Spilled over.
Right here, in America, we’ve been risking our lives since start.
I already misplaced two years of my comparatively brief life struggling to maintain this Black physique from destroying itself from the within out. Regardless of that, I’ll march for George Floyd within the midst of a pandemic.
What’s it that would probably make a most cancers affected person threat the life they’ve simply fought so onerous to save lots of and preserve?
The reality is, there are two pandemics plaguing America proper now. There’s COVID-19, after which there’s the a lot older, rather more established pandemic. It’s the justice system that was designed to make sure that Black People would by no means see justice achieved. It’s neutrality within the face of oppression. It’s valuing destroyed property over destroyed households. It’s microaggressions. It’s racial profiling. It’s Donald Trump. It’s police brutality. It’s civilian vigilantism in opposition to Black individuals for present in areas outdoors of the bins which have been compelled upon us. It’s the white people who refused to put on masks in grocery shops final month and cried “Plandemic!” whereas communities of colour have been decimated due to inequities in well being care. It’s the white people proper now who’re crying out “All lives matter!” and urging protesters to spare Goal in the midst of a genocide.
Black lives clearly don’t matter inside this method and this nation. They by no means have.
A photograph taken by the writer on the bottom throughout an Eight-minute silence for George Floyd at a protest that happened in Hempstead, New York on June 5, 2020.
Protesting is multifaceted and multilayered. There are methods to contribute apart from taking to the streets, they usually’re all obligatory and legitimate. They embody donating cash, writing letters, cooking meals for protesters and training artwork activism. Any of those would possibly arguably be higher suited to immunocompromised individuals who keep residence due to COVID-19. These contributions are not any much less helpful than bodily exhibiting as much as protest. However, for me, strolling the streets for justice as an immunocompromised particular person throughout a pandemic is a political assertion in and of itself ― as a result of finally, present as a Black particular person in America is simply as perilous.
The very fact is that whereas I might not be a stranger to quarantine or illness or threat or dying, neither is the remainder of Black America. And being disabled doesn’t defend me, or every other Black particular person, in any significant means from police brutality. Think about Laquan McDonald, Dainell Simmons, Charleena Lyles, Philip Coleman, Quintonio LeGrier, Stephon Watts and Jeremy McDole, to call only a few.
George Floyd is vital, and his dying is a tragedy. However George Floyd can also be simply the most recent sufferer amid a prolonged historical past of abuse, trauma and grief, and it’s our obligation to make sure that this doesn’t occur once more.
So I’ve determined I’ll step out to combat with my group as a Black American as soon as once more. I’ll step out as a Black American who has protested police brutality within the streets of NYC and Lengthy Island since I used to be an adolescent, lengthy earlier than I used to be identified with most cancers. This time, it’ll be for George Floyd. This time, I’ll do it understanding very nicely that the implications could also be dire, regardless of protecting gear and social distancing. I’ll step out once more, even when this time finally ends up being the final time.
As a result of when all is claimed and achieved, being Black in America is type of like being immunocompromised in the midst of a pandemic ― besides the pandemic is systemic racism, and it’s been barreling via us, 400 years robust, without end. The pandemic is the system that hanged our ancestors from bushes by their necks for leisure, that burned us and bought items of us to spectators as souvenirs. It’s the system that, nowadays, permits tax-funded officers of the regulation to kneel on our necks or put us in chokeholds till we suffocate on digital camera for the world to see.
I’ve been met with questioning appears to be like by those that know and love me once I point out leaving my residence to protest, as if my resolution means I don’t wholly worth my life.
The reality is, all of our protesters are placing their lives on the road. They’re combating a system that may moderately mace youngsters, mow down these they have been sworn to guard, and watch our nation burn than yield energy.
We weren’t born to die within the streets below somebody’s knee. We love our lives, and that’s why so many people, me included, would die combating for the proper to reside on our personal phrases, with an upward gaze — hopeful and unchained.
Gazes upward, all the time: the writer, seated with a pal on the Hope Lodge in New York Metropolis, in 2018.
Jacqueline Dyre is a Lengthy Island-based author, editor, activist and visible artist. In early 2020, they based Novel Noctule, an impartial literary horror journal.
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