HEALING &
SCARS

WRITTEN BY SIERRA KLOTZ
I was born and raised in New Jersey and lived there for almost 18 years before moving to Kansas to get my bachelor's degree at a small college in the southwest corner of the state. I graduated in May 2017 with my Psychology and Family Studies degree and an associate's degree in Bible. I now live in Virginia where I am a full time graduate student pursuing my MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. Though I have chosen counseling as my career path, writing still remains one of my greatest passions and is a hobby I keep up. I enjoy writing in different genres and platforms and pitch my work as often as I can. I also enjoy music, whether it be just listening to someone else's creations or playing my guitar. If I'm not doing either of these things, odds are I'm watching some sports game, either live or on TV. Hockey is my favorite with soccer coming in at a close second.
Photo By Thibault Jorge
I'm a French photographer and UI designer. An autodidactic, I learned photography thanks to the family camera, an old Minolta created at the same time as me. But mostly, I travel a lot and research graphic and architectural designs in natural or manmade settings. I have developed my career over the past nine years as Designer and Product Manager in the web sector, mobile apps and startups, from New York to Singapore. I cofounded Femme Fatale Studio (https://www.femmefatale.paris), a digital production agency. @madebytj on Instagram and website: http://thibaultjorge.photos
Healing & Scars

It was the last day of my freshman year of high school. I was sitting around with some friends, eating some ice cream, and trying to understand how a quarter of my high school journey went by so fast. As the day came to a close, parents started to pick up their kids, and we all exchanged goodbyes that would have to carry us for the next three months. I was talking to a friend when his mom came up to us. She looked at me and asked why I wasn't afraid of dogs.

“What?” I asked, completely confused.

“Your face. Shouldn't you be afraid of what did that to you?”

It took me a second to realize what she was talking about, but then I knew that she was talking about the scar that ran from my nose to the middle of my chin on my right cheek.

“No, I wasn't attacked by a dog. I was born with a hemangioma.”

“A what?” The mother's face was now wrinkled with confusion.

“A tumor. I had surgeries to get rid of it when I was little.”

Now that the conversation had turned awkward, my friend stood up, gave me a hug, and followed his mother to their car. I sighed and looked to the person standing next to me. They just shrugged and said, “I thought it was a car accident.”

WHILE I WAS VERY, VERY YOUNG AND I DON'T REMEMBER MOST OF THE DOCTOR'S VISITS AND SURGERIES, I DO REMEMBER HEARING MY PARENTS EXPLAIN MY STORY OVER AND OVER TO DIFFERENT PEOPLE.

A hemangioma is very common and is medium-term, meaning it “often resolves within a few months.” That was not the case with me. While I was very, very young and I don't remember most of the doctor's visits and surgeries, I do remember hearing my parents explain my story over and over to different people. Every time we, as a family, went somewhere new and prominent, the story needed to be told again. A new school, a new church, it didn't matter, I had to repeat that I was never attacked by a dog and that the only car accidents I had been in were very minimal, and I learned that really no one has ever heard of hemangiomas before.

My baby pictures tell the story better than I can since I was so young. At first the tumor looks like a little dot, a blemish that's not too entirely uncommon because no baby comes out completely perfect (despite what their parents may say). But as I got older and grew, the tumor did too, until you see the pictures from my preschool years. That is when the scar appears, the scar that I have had since then and will have for the rest of my life.

BUT AS I GOT OLDER AND GREW, THE TUMOR DID TOO, UNTIL YOU SEE THE PICTURES FROM MY PRESCHOOL YEARS. THAT IS WHEN THE SCAR APPEARS, THE SCAR THAT I HAVE HAD SINCE THEN AND WILL HAVE FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE.

When I was eight my parents and I went back to the doctor who had worked wonders for me and my face. I can't remember why we decided to go back since it had been so long since my last surgery, but we did. The doctor said that I could have another one and it would be another cosmetic surgery, performed to rebuild and try to make my face look more symmetrical. Prior to this surgery I had four others, two of which to actually remove the tumor. The third was to repair any nerve damage and the fourth was to help me close my eye properly and help minimize scars. I'm not sure how much of the decision was up to me and how much input my parents gave, but we scheduled my fifth surgery for February 17, 2004, which was also my mom's birthday.

The night before my surgery I couldn’t sleep. I remember screaming and my parents constantly running into my room. I didn't want to die, especially on my mom's birthday. I was eight and I was terrified. I don't think I got any sleep that night.

Early in the morning I got dressed and climbed into the back of our green minivan. We began the two hour plus drive to New York City where the doctor's office was and where my last surgery would take place. The next thing I remember is the anesthesiologist coming in and introducing herself. She quickly briefed me on what would take place and told me that I wouldn't remember anything before the surgery. Not fully understanding what she meant, I started to panic. I thought that I would forget everything, literally everything, and that I would need to start school over. When I woke from the surgery the first thing I did was mentally add two and two. When I remembered that the answer was four I felt a little more at ease. I fell asleep on the drive back, but before drifting I remember driving through Times Square and seeing all the lights. I was on the bench seat in the back lying down and trying to read my Lizzie McGuire book.

I was out of school for a while and my class made me cards. I also received cards from teachers, my sisters, and other relatives and family friends. To this day I still have them.

Not too long after the surgery it was time for me to have my stitches removed. My dad drove me into the city and we stopped and got sandwiches at a deli before. Following their stereotype, the pigeons tried to eat my food before I could. After our lunch we went to the doctor. Getting stitches removed is painful in and of itself, but seeing the doctor come close to my face with tweezers added an element of fear to the pain.

AT SOME POINT OF MY HIGH SCHOOL CAREER, THOUGH, MY MOM DECIDED TO GIVE ME ALL OF THE MEDICAL NOTES. SHE SAID THAT I HAD ASKED MY PARENTS TO SAVE EVERYTHING FOR ME FOR WHEN I WAS OLDER.

After that surgery things seemed to calm down. I switched schools in sixth grade and so there was a little bit of storytelling then, and then again in high school, but that was really minimal. At some point of my high school career, though, my mom decided to give me all of the medical notes. She said that I had asked my parents to save everything for me for when I was older. As I thumbed through the thick manila folders, tears started to form. When I saw the amount of medicine I was on and how on guard my parents had to be about me taking it, my appreciation and love for them grew immensely. I didn't look at every sheet of paper that day, and I still haven't. Those documents are in a Rubbermaid bin in my parents' garage along with the X-rays and other things they saved for me.

When I was seventeen, I left the East Coast and moved west for college. Before I left, my parents sat me down and reminded me of what a wonderful opportunity I was being given. I grew up in small private Christian schools where everyone knew each other and I was starting a new chapter of my life where no one would know who I was. That meant that I could focus on my good traits, work on the bad, and that no one would know what I was like in middle school. I welcomed the opportunity, though I was a little scared, completely forgetting about my scar.

IT WAS THE DAY BEFORE PICTURE DAY AND I WAS SITTING IN FRONT OF THE MIRROR, CRYING BECAUSE OF HOW LOPSIDED MY SMILE WAS. I REMEMBER WISHING THAT SOMEONE COULD PUT ON INVISIBLE GLOVES OR SOMETHING AND RAISE THE OTHER SIDE OF MY MOUTH SO I WOULD LOOK NORMAL.

There are a few times in my life that I remember being really mad about my scar. The earliest memory is when I was in second grade. My smile was, and still is, a bit on the crooked side. I don't have all of my muscles in the right side of my face and so my left side rises more. I'm not bothered by it now, but all of the doctors told me over and over again that I needed to practice smiling. It was the day before picture day and I was sitting in front of the mirror, crying because of how lopsided my smile was. I remember wishing that someone could put on invisible gloves or something and raise the other side of my mouth so I would look normal.

When I was in middle school, the pressure to look and act like everyone around me grew and grew. I was already bigger than the other girls and shorter too. Add my scar on top of that and I felt like the ugliest, chubbiest girl in the whole school. I was embarrassed all the time.

AT SOME POINT, THOUGH, I BECAME OKAY WITH MY FACE. THEN “OKAY” TURNED INTO “LIKING.”

There wasn't one day when I just woke up and was 100% satisfied with my appearance. To be completely honest, I'm still not there. At some point, though, I became okay with my face. Then “okay” turned into “liking.” Sure there are some days when I'll look at pictures and cringe a little because they have my “bad” side, but all in all I like my appearance, more specifically my face. Most mornings I do not even notice my scar. When I moved for college, I kind of forgot that I even had it. But to everyone out there, they had never seen it before. It was time to start telling the story again and a speech class my sophomore year gave me the opportunity.

I asked my parents for some help since there were lots of details that I didn’t know and started practicing my speech over and over once all of the information was compiled. When I first practiced, I couldn't get through it without crying. I didn't think I was still emotional about it, but I realized I was, and frankly, I still am. When my family was first going through all of this it was just me, my parents, and my older sister. My older sister is three years older than me and she tagged on for lots of the doctor's appointments and such. Since we were in New York City a lot, my parents tried to make the most of the situation. We went to the Disney store and the Warner Brother's store. We saw the legendary Ferris wheel inside Toys R Us and ate lots of pretzels and hot dogs off the stands. There are pictures of us wrapped in our winter coats on the carriage being pulled by horses. So many different people were doing their best to help my family and me through this ordeal. My parents were young, so young, and they had another child to take care of and still they did their absolute best. Whenever I get upset with my family, I think back to this time and think about how strong we were together. Even though our family grew from two kids to six, I'm convinced that it would have been the same. We still would have rallied together and would have helped each other through it because that's the way we are.

My professor was really impressed with my speech and he said that I raised the bar for the whole class. I looked at my classmates and sheepishly shrugged. That wasn't my intention and that meant that I had my own work cut out for me too. I had to constantly one up myself with each speech.

WHILE I MAY NOT NOTICE MY SCAR, AND WHILE PEOPLE WHO I HAVE BEEN FRIENDS WITH FOR A WHILE SAY THAT THEY DON'T NOTICE IT EITHER, IT MIGHT VERY WELL BE THE FIRST THING THAT A PERSON NOTICES ABOUT ME.

My speech class had less than twenty students in it, so less than twenty students on my college campus heard my story that day, but I know that most of the people know what happened to me. Naturally there are still rumors circulating about car accidents and dog attacks, but those will probably follow me wherever I go. While I may not notice my scar, and while people who I have been friends with for a while say that they don't notice it either, it might very well be the first thing that a person notices about me. What I find funny, though, is that when I ask people that question they never answer scar. They usually give one of two answers: either my eyes or my smile, the two things that I think have been “messed up” the most by my scar. It's a reminder of how my perspective on things can be very different from the perspectives of those around me.

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