Like most people, I didn’t give much thought to the inequities and barriers experienced by the facial difference community.
In 2020, that changed. The year prior, I began to have unexplained, chronic pain in my nose. My family doctor was not initially concerned, but over the following months, the pain became increasingly unbearable, and I knew something was seriously wrong. My eventual diagnosis was a rare nasal cancer. As a 40-year-old female in otherwise good health, my cancer was described as a medical anomaly.
When aggressive radiation treatment proved unsuccessful, I underwent surgery in July 2020 for removal of my nose, nasal bone, and part of my cheek.
Despite many setbacks in my recovery, I’m so grateful to be pain and cancer-free. But adjusting to an acquired facial difference is an ongoing process. While I feel like the same person as before my diagnosis, I often don’t recognize the person in the mirror.
I’ve entered a world that people with facial differences know all too well. Stepping out the door, I’ve had to brace myself to encounter staring and possibly comments, intrusive questions, or pity. These experiences motivated me to be part of AboutFace’s awareness campaign to work towards changing people’s misconceptions and assumptions.
It’s still a daily challenge to navigate my self-acceptance and comfort level with my difference. But I have a full life and a wonderful support system, and the strength, wisdom and insight I’ve gained through this journey has been far more than I’ve lost.