Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth." Genesis 9:13

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

On being calico

A long time ago I got interested in the experience of having a birthmark like mine ( a large portwine stain).  I grew up aware I was different in a lot of ways and although it hurt horribly when someone made fun of it, to a large extent my classmates didn't.  I was bullied plenty, but not usually for the birthmark.  Sometimes, and it always hurt a lot and I can remember most of those nasty statements, but mainly being birthmarked was so normal to my class of 100, most of whom were together from kindergarten through high school graduation, that they never thought much of it.  When it was used to hurt it was used deliberately.  Although I've always been aware of it, I wasn't really allowed to question its' effect on me. This mainly was for a simple reason:  when I was a kid there were no treatments.  The best option, so to speak, was to tattoo it normal skin color, but it would never tan and the darkening of the birthmark with age might easily show through eventually.  No thanks.

So sometime in late college/early grad school I got involved in an online group for people with or family members of those with, portwine stains.  One of the members referred to it as being calico, which has always stuck with me.  Through years on the newsgroup I learned how rare this kind of birthmark is when located where mine is.  I learned to accept and treat the pain I'd always experienced when it got cold, and I learned it was ok to say that this hurt.  I learned laser treatments had come a long way and that even my birthmark, in a very untreatable area with characteristics that made success less likely, could be treated with at least some fading possible and also the bleeders that had grown on my finger and thumb could be killed off for at least a few years.  I eventually had 2 treatments with a laser, hoping for fading that didn't happen, but  mostly glad to see the bleeders go away.  They were not fun; twice I woke covered in blood because the thing had burst open while I slept and a vascular birthmark bleeds a lot when given a chance.   I was still a student, on student insurance, which meant no coverage, but I had an awesome doctor who donated his time and so I had the treatments done at the cost of the procedure room at the hospital.

I had 2 treatments done, knowing that killing the bleeders was the main thing and that if that was managed then any fading was gravy.  Fading did not happen.  There was a tiny place that faded slightly for while.  The treatments were hard because this is my hand and I need to use it. So I stopped when the bleeders were gone and have been thankful since.

I got our family's professional pictures back this week.  They're great but my birthmark was airbrushed.  In one picture it was removed from my whole hand except that it's visible in my thumbnail and in the odd shape the extra blood flow gave my thumb. It's really weird.  I was really upset for a while, esp. because I remember when I was little photographers always tried to hide it under my other hand.  I'm not furious now, but it still feels like that picture contains and amputated part of me.

Self-acceptance is a great thing.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good to know more about you and to understand about your self-acceptance. That said, are you interested in pursuing further treatment if something new is now available?

Blessings and prayers, Michal