Candice Patterson, Some Assembly Required
Thursday, July 1, 2010
More Magazine article from July 2010.
I am beautiful. There is a world full of people trying to convince me that I am not. I feel it when I walk into a room, I see it in their eyes, their expressions and then I hear it in their words. But I am still beautiful. For 40 years I have lived with a facial deformity caused by Neurofibromatosis and for 40 years the best surgeons in the world have taken me apart and reassembled me all in the name of wellness and beauty. I am not my disease. I have spent my life as a patient undergoing 24 surgeries to remove tumors caused by NF and repairing the damage that they have caused. Every summer when I was growing up my summer began with surgery and my head wrapped tightly, bound in gauze and pressure dressings 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 own pain. At some time the bandages would be removed to reveal a face I did not recognize. A face beaten, bruised, bloody and damaged all in the name of beauty. I would have to learn this new face, accept this new face, love this new face in all aspects of its healing. Do you know what it's like to love yourself no matter what? There are times that I would hide during the process to not frighten children and not hear the cruelness of the world. In my cocoon, silently I would heal. My face has been broken so many times that I have suffered every disability of senses known to man. My vision would be taken away because my eyes were sewn shut in order to heal, but I never lost sight. My ability to speak was taken away when they shattered my jaw into pieces but I never lost my voice. I taught myself sign language, then taught it to my family. I've walked feeling the walls of my home and using my feet to sense floor changes to find my way to the kitchen during the night in an effort to be independent and make myself a glass of juice. I've survived breathing through a pinky sized opening in my mouth because my face swelled so badly I struggled to breathe. I've run 5k's, swam for miles and danced my way into preparing my body for battle and for healing.
I have thought that I would die and sometimes wished 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 beautiful butterfly would emerge once again. No one taught me how to be a blind woman, I had to figure it out on my own. No one taught me how to survive NF, I've had to learn that on my own too. My family empowered me to believe in myself. My mother, a single teenage 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 Neurofibromatosis, no medicine, no pill, no quick fix. The tumors will come, grow and destroy at their will. Maybe it will be years, months, days, we do not know why they come or return or attempt to destroy. But 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 again left battered and broken at the foot of the hills. Picking yourself up over and over again is not easy. The best things in life are 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 not my disease. I am a powerful woman. I am a tri-athlete. I am a healer. I am a friend. I am a lover. I am a fighter, and even Wonder Woman needs a makeover sometimes. I am Candice Patterson, Some Assembly Required.