In 7th grade I was doing the things other kids my age typically do–I was involved in clubs at school, liked hanging out with my friends and was looking forward to our upcoming middle school dance.
Unlike other seventh graders I was going to a dermatologist’s office 3-4 times per week to get anywhere from 20-60 shots of medicine in my face to combat the cysts that seemed to keep popping up on my face. This cycle would continue through my high school years and I often joked that I saw my doctor more than my own family. My dermatologist, David, told me to never give up hope and that we were going to find a way to to make me feel and look better.
Those middle school years are challenging for nearly everyone but having a very visible skin disorder on your face when you are twelve is beyond mortifying. While the shots were painful, the judging eyes of my peers on my swollen face hurt me much, much more. I can’t blame them–we were kids–but that it is something I couldn’t understand back then.
I have continued to struggle with this issue ever since although two rounds of the very powerful drug Accutane both at 14 and at 27 have largely helped manage it. I still have visible scaring but to me that is a blessing compared to the alternative.
One day a couple of months ago I was on a run, actually counting my blessings and feeling grateful when my phone rang. It was my dermatologist–after all I had been through with him we remained close. He told me about a girl named Gina who was battling a similar skin issue.
He was about to administer her shots one day when she started sobbing. David gently asked her if she was in pain. “Noooo,” she wailed, “but I’m just so sad because I’ll never be pretty.” Her skin disorder had made her feel ugly and unworthy.
David told her he would be right back and went to his office to grab my holiday card to him from last year. “Do you see this woman? Do you think she is pretty?” he asked her. “Yes,” she replied. He continued to tell her how I was just like her as a kid and how I grew up to be happy and healthy.
Gina and I have since become phone buddies. She calls or texts when she is struggling with feelings of unworthiness and excitedly tells me about the good things that are happening, too. I plan to meet her in person when I go home to Detroit in a few weeks.
Yesterday, I had some head shots taken and I posted a couple of the pictures on Facebook. As friends made kind comments about them I hoped in my heart that Gina would someday grow to love her imperfections and be cherished by others just as she is.
That is my holiday wish for Gina