Some of us wake up feeling proud in the morning. Perhaps it is for your gender, sexual orientation, heritage, or the breakfast you just made – you name it, you own that confidence and pride for it. And while I have quite a bit of admiration for a lot of those elements of myself, one of the things I am the most proud of happens to lay in the middle of my right arm – my birthmark aka my hemangioma.
Considered to be the most common noncancerous tumor among newborn children, hemangiomas are basically a random proliferation of red blood vessels that can end up on any part of the body. If you take a look at the hashtag for hemangioma, you likely will find a collection of strange and yet beautiful images. Children with giant, bright red blobs on their eye lids, cheek or even all over their body.
For me, I was “one of the lucky ones”, as some would say, for mine ended up in a place that didn’t require any sort of immediate surgery, nor has it disabled any parts of my body. It just looked like a red puffy dot on my arm, making my family refer to it as an “angel kiss”.
Unfortunately, once I entered the public school system, the initial affection that my parents had given me towards my hemangioma seemed to disappear. Kids would constantly tease me about it, and wonder if I was alien or a vampire (since I also happened to have “sharp teeth” according to some.) I wished I could get rid of this annoyance, but it would involve incredible amounts of painful surgery – making it hard to “pick my poison”.
But after years of my own anxiety, covering up under unnecessary layers, and the color of my hemangioma decreasing as time progressed, I threw my emotional flag into the air and screamed a bunch of fun, carefully chosen expletives. I was already a weirdo from the moment I was born, and my birthmark was the perfect way for me to show the pride I have in myself – and the luck I (and others) believe is on my side. Why should I go through so much struggle (and spend a ridiculous amount of money) just to look “normal”? It just wasn’t in the cards for me.
But in my current adult life, after making such an important decision to be proud of my hemangioma, you would think that the rest of the world would look upon my decision as one to celebrate. Well, that isn’t exactly the case.
When I speak in a positive tone about my hemangioma, strangers typically have a variety of reactions. For one co-worker, she rolled her eyes and responded, “…. I’d never keep that on me.” And the funny thing is, in the span of 24 years, she hasn’t been the only one to make such a comment. In fact, a majority of people that came up to me (on the day I shot these pictures) gave me the same response over and over.
When these strangers would discover I didn’t have some cruel TV drama backstory, nor that I had been stun by a bee, they were bewildered to see that this strange bit of flesh was not something I was seeking to get rid of. Sometimes they would just shrug it off and accept my choice, while others would fight me about it, hoping that eventually I’ll “see the light” and want to look cosmetically acceptable.
But as someone who has grown up plus size, with dyslexia and being a giant nerd, why in the heck would I ever want to be considered normal some 28 years later? Accepting my hemangioma has been a journey of embracing who I am and what makes up the human being I was born to be. I shouldn’t be ashamed of my cellulite, or the way my mind works, and I certainly shouldn’t be when it comes to my more “un-Vogue looking” birthmark.
People commenting on the removal of my hemangioma ultimately feels like them suggesting to a cut out a part of my identity – and though there are times when I feel down about my differences from my friends and those I admire, I still want to embrace those flaws because they make up the fabric of my human quilt – my story. And if I didn’t have my parent’s divorce, my struggles with learning, my nerdy side, my weight, or my hemangioma, I don’t know who or what I would be. But trust me, it wouldn’t look at all this good.
To the fellow hemangioma, birthmark, and scar keepers of the world, you’re beautiful. Don’t let anyone push you into feeling ashamed for embracing what makes up your own story. And to those that did decide to change their path, you’re beautiful too, and there’s nothing wrong with going down a different road. We all have our own journey to write, and that is the greatest bestseller of all.