I know I need to write. Ever have those experiences?
Just write, Amy. Just write.
Okay. (deep breath) I'll just put it out there.
So, I've shared with you all in passing before that I have a very unusual birthmark on the back of my leg. Super duper highly unusual. I will spare you all a picture, but it is like a pinkish-red, dry, scaly skin that runs from my pinky toe, across the top of my foot, wraps around my ankle, climbs all the way up the back of my leg, knee, and thigh, and ends somewhere on the underside of my bottom. It might resemble a burn more than a birthmark. (nice, right?)
It's pretty common for people to think that it itches or is painful. It doesn't. And it's not.
Doctors have said that to try to remove it would make an even BIGGER scar and look worse than what's already there.
Just like my daughter, I've lived my entire life with a very visible physical difference. Though mine is on the back of my leg, it is what you'd consider an "eyesore." While Caroline's infirmity might evoke feelings of puzzlement or empathy, mine would be more apt to make someone flinch or look away.
Basically, let's just say it-- sometimes I feel like a freak, okay?
Whew. This is difficult to put out there, people. Give me an "A" for vulnerability right about now.
Apparently it started appearing when I was six months old in diapers, and doctors first thought it was a very bad case of diaper rash. It freaked my mom out, and made her feel like she was somehow failing as a mom. (wow- how similar to my own experience when I couldn't keep hair on my kid's head) But as it kept growing and spreading the length of my entire leg, I guess it became clear that no Desitin would ever knock this sucker out. ;)
In childhood, my birthmark played a big role in beginning friendships. "What's THAT?" kids would ask, contorting their face into a disgusted look when they saw my leg. Wonderful.
I remember fearing whether they would still want to play with me after what they saw.
My "problem" was easily solved, however, by wearing pants. I had (and still have) the option of covering up and hiding. (Especially with it being cold weather season! No one has to see.)
But seriously, it's not as much of an issue now as it was growing up. Oh man, I've come a loooong way on how I handle my "deformity."
But honestly, as I'm typing this, I'm realizing just how shameful I still am of my leg.
I mean, can you blame me? Take the scenerio of each time I have tried to get a pedicure, for example-- after so many times, it becomes too humiliating to watch the reaction of the little asian woman when she sees MY foot. They are afraid to touch me. They put on a glove as if I am going to infect them.
What does it mean for me to be confident in who I am? In who God made me to be? I am faced with that reality every time I put on a skirt. (or shorts...)
I feel exposed. And I am tempted to cave in from shame.
Should I just always cover up? What am I to do with my shame?
Of course, maturity and a loving husband have been so good in my sanctification process. Now, when I'm in public with my leg exposed for all to see, (and oh, they're seeing...) I must remind myself of the truth:
It doesn't matter what they think. Forget them. You have all the acceptance you need, Amy. Rest in who He made you to be.
Those are the subconscious thoughts I wrestle against daily. Isn't it unbelievable that He would give me a daughter in which to instill the same?
Which leads to the reason I'm writing this post...
Just the other day, I happened to find a spot on my birthmark that had darkened. (happened to be on my rear end, wouldn't ya know...) This is apparently common for my type of birthmark throughout life-- places may become irritated, raised, and eventually cancerous. A few years ago I had a spot cut off on my foot for that reason.
So, when I call my doctor (who is the head of a dermatology department at a large university hospital nearby) and tell him I'm the one with the "linear porokerotosis" on my leg, he's quickly willing to squeeze me into the schedule two days later, as opposed to months later like everyone else.
But here's the catch....
I have to come during "group rounds." Well, you know what that means, right?
He'll see me, but he also wants me to come for all of his resident students to see me as well. I will be the live "specimen" on display.
Fine. Give me the appointment.
So today I went.
"Now, who are you again?" he asks good-naturedly as he walks in the room, "I don't recognize your face." To give him credit, it had been years.
To which I pulled up my pant leg, and after one glance, his voice immediately jumped up two octaves, "Oh yes! I know YOU!"
Well, of course you do. :) I'm your linear porokeratosis.
He takes a quick look at the irritated spot on my bum, and thankfully, it's not cancerous. Whew. No cutting today.
But then it was time. He began arranging the sheet over my backside to where it would expose all of my birthmark, yet keep me feeling as modest as possible. (which didn't feel all that modest, let me tell you)
In came the MARCHING PARADE of doctors, med-students, residents, you NAME it, to see me and my backside in all its glory! It was their job to try and guess what I have. (fun game, right?)
Yes, thank you. I'm that much of a medical rarity that people are clamoring to observe something they have only heard about in a textbook.
I'm so glad in this moment that I can provide them with such an amazing learning experience...
They file in the room 2 to 3 at a time, introducing themselves (I felt more like face-planting down into the pillow than talking) and asking questions.
"Have you always had this?"
"Does it itch or hurt?"
"Is this how long it's always been?"
"Do you have problems with it?"
It's all fine and professional until I hear one of them say, "Oh wow" at one point. Now that's reassuring.
Another one took a freaking FLASHLIGHT to show the others something particular about this type of skin.
Umm, seriously?? This is me, people. Not an experiment. ME.
I heard two of the girls collaborating with each other as they examined me, and I got a little excited when I heard the words "linear porokeratosis" slip out. Good job, I thought! but I was on strict orders by my doctor not to give the "right answer" away.
"But can people actually get that?" the other girl asked her in disbelief.
Good grief. Yes, people can GET that.
Now, of course, they were all very kind and they kept thanking me profusely for coming in. But I could tell most of them were dumbfounded by my body. (Marc was watching their reactions to me from the other side of the room.) They had no idea what it was.
Let me tell you, that can do WONDERS for a woman's body image. :) The doctor told me I was the star of the show today.
I'm not so sure I wanted to be the star of that show.
Just think of the things you try to keep hidden, unknown, out of the forefront of your mind, let alone anyone else's mind. Think of what you don't want to be known for. Most women (and men) I know carry some sort of shame about their bodies anyway. Think of that very thing or things that bring you shame.
Today was like taking THAT VERY THING and literally shining a spotlight on it for the world to see.
A shameful part of me exposed.
It's humiliating, guys.
However, my mind can't help but think about Another who was exposed and humiliated FAR beyond my little doctor visit today. One who had nothing of which to be ashamed, yet took all of my shame upon Himself.
It's His righteousness that covers me. In my shame, His righteousness covers so much better than that thin, white hospital sheet. It's His acceptance, His approval that I will rest in this day.
I refuse to let that experience, and all the experiences across a lifetime, formulate my identity. I am not beautiful because my legs have normal, silky skin. The truth is they don't. But I am beautiful because Christ makes me beautiful. Period.
The same things I hope for my daughter need to ring true for her mama, too.
There is NO shame. There is no need to hide.