Rejection is Hard

There was a call last month in the Jewish community for a bone marrow donor to save a poor little girl suffering from a horrifying illness. Stories like these are so tragic and reading this one I of course wanted to be tested to see if I was a match. I was pleased to learn that in the agoraphobic age of the internet one need not even go to some testing centre to have her cheeks swabbed or her blood drawn. You can become a stem cell donor now simply by going to the Canadian Blood Services website and signing up through their OneMatch program:  

It’s just like becoming a Netflix subscriber, only with this you have to answer a few basic health questions and there’s a chance you might give up your vital organs. I entered my information, took a brief quiz on stem cells and then waited for my buccal swab to come in the mail so that I could start sharing my physical self with the world and not just my emotional one. The former was likely far more helpful to others. I really hoped I was a match.  

When a small envelope came a week later with the Blood Services insignia, I tore open the envelope and puffed my cheeks to get ready to swab.  

Dear Ms. Litner,

Thank you for your interest in the OneMatch program…blah, blah, blah…We won’t be having you join…blah, blah, blah…You can keep your stem cells  and minimal dignity…blah, blah, blah.


Canadian Blood Services

What!? I am taking this rejection pretty hard. I have longed coped with my self-consciousness by telling myself it’s what’s inside that counts but apparently what’s inside me is not all that great. My insides aren’t even good enough for a program that might require voluntary surgery and struggles to recruit volunteers!  With a roster of potential stem cell donors in the millions there are basically entire countries with better insides than mine. Does Canadian Blood Services even know what a hypochondriac I am? It’s kind of my thing and you can’t be a hypochondriac if the illnesses are real. Now I need to find a new neurosis.  Thanks CBS.  Granted my mother did die prematurely of cancer and I spend roughly 99.9% of my life feeling vaguely nauseous, but what, I ask you, are so bad about my stem cells?!

“I think your stem cells are perfect, sweetheart,” says my father. “Anyone would be lucky to have any stem cell of yours.” 

Did you hear that Blood Services? My Daddy says my stem cells are perfect. 

Given that we share DNA, I realize my dad is likely biased in his opinion so I pass the letter on to my husband, Stephen, who shares none of my genetic makeup but is supposed to love me and my organs unconditionally.

“Aren’t you secretly relieved?” he asks.

I wonder if we can get him on the waiting list for a heart.

“It’s just, you pass out every time you get a blood test,” he reminds me.

“But this is just a cheek swab!”

What if God forbid I need to be the recipient of such biological material? How could I possibly accept such a precious gift when I can’t give it back? Ruminating over my rejection I begin to wallow, moping about the house in my pajamas and eating a carton of Reese’s Pieces ice cream because what does it matter anymore?  All these weight classes, eating right and going to bed early and still someone on dialysis would take a pass on my kidney, preferring instead to stick with what they’ve got. This genetic rebuff feeds a deep seated fear of mine, one that I have carried around since childhood, like my belief, until recently, that the character from Ghostbusters is called the State Puffed Marshmallow Man: I fear I am broken. I am scared that there is something fundamentally wrong with me, some problematic wiring at my very core that no amount of time, medication or diet can fix. That is why I’m not happy. That is why I am such a disappointment to myself. My failure is in my chromosomes, coiled around the very material that makes me, me, making it impossible to extract and cure like some cluster of unhealthy cells.

I wish self-esteem was transplantable because I know people with lots to spare. I see them basking in self-belief. It is no matter how good (or bad) they are at what they do, they are able to persist, push themselves forward because it never occurs to them that they can’t. The quality of their work becomes irrelevant. They believe it to be good simply because they created it. I rip myself apart, questioning everything I do. I assume I am wrong. I assume I can’t do it.

I wonder if I can get on some donor list for confidence? I would have the doctors hook me up and pump my veins chock-full of faith.  

Since I can’t receive a confidence transfusion, I think this is where I am supposed to muster up some self love organically. I am supposed to say something like: what does the Canadian Blood Services know about transplants anyway!  (everything). If it’s meant to be, it will be! (it’s not. I’m anemic).

I think the problem is I have been holding out for an immediate cure for what ails me and such a magic bullet just doesn’t exist. Wounds take a long time to heal, sometimes years and years. Iron levels are not restored to healthy levels by swallowing a single vitamin. It’s going to take time to nurture an authentic self-esteem, to harvest a healthy sense of self. And when my strength finally comes, I’ll be ready. I will come into my own and believe myself capable of my own ambitions. Then, I will hold my head up high, turn off Netflix, and never look back.   


**Graphic by Mark Lipinski