Originally posted at: http://womenreshapingtheworld.com/blog/candices-storyThank you, Candice Lorriane Patterson, for permission to share your story on this NF blog.
I am beautiful, but there is a world full of people trying to convince me that I’m not. I feel it when I walk into a room, I see it in their eyes and I hear it in their words. I am beautiful. For 40 years I have lived with a facial deformity caused by Neurofibromatosis, and for 40 years the best surgeons have taken me apart and reassembled me all in the name of beauty. I have 26 surgeries under my belt.
Summers began with an operation, and my head bound in gauze and pressure dressings; I was unable to see the new cuts on my face and the new scars that I would have to befriend. I was trapped in a hot, sound-muffled prison of my pain. The bandages would be removed to reveal a face I did not recognize. A face bruised, bloody and damaged all in the name of beauty. I would have to learn this new face, accept this new face and love this new face in all the stages of healing.
Do you know what it’s like to love yourself unconditionally? In my cocoon, I would heal. My face has been broken so many times that I have suffered every disability of senses known to man; my vision temporarily gone because my eyes were sewn or swollen shut. My ability to speak was taken away when they shattered my jaw into pieces. I’ve spent weeks shoeless using my bare feet to feel the floor and navigate a journey to fix myself a glass of water; it was a marathon of will as the meds disoriented me. I’ve breathed through straw-sized openings in my mouth because my face swelled so badly breathing was the only goal. I’ve run 5k’s, swam for miles and danced my way into preparing my body for battle and healing. I have thought that I would die, and sometimes wished it too, just to be released from the pain.
I also knew that life was just too beautiful, and eventually the pain will leave and a butterfly would emerge again. My mother empowered me to believe in myself and my beauty. Had she sheltered me from the world, she would have disabled me. I’m not disabled, I’m amazing. There is no cure for NF. The tumors will grow and destroy at their will. Maybe it will be months, years, we don’t know why they come or return or attempt to destroy. I will never be destroyed by them. Living with NF is like constantly climbing a mountain, and as soon as you reach the top you are shoved off, left battered and broken at the foot of the hills. Picking yourself up over and over again is not easy. The mountain may kill me, but I will never lay at the foot of it surrendering to its pain. I am beautiful.
I am a powerful woman, triathlete, healer, friend, lover, fighter and even Wonder Woman needs a makeover sometimes.
I am Candice Patterson, Some Assembly Required.