How do you deal with seeing yourself in the mirror?
- February 4, 2016

I remember the first time I saw myself in the mirror   like it was yesterday. It was 2 weeks after my initial surgeries in June 2012.  I kept avoiding looking at myself in the mirror.  However, one day upon returning from the bathroom in my hospital room, I caught a glimpse of myself.  To say I was shocked did not cover it.  I felt that I looked like a clown.  I even  asked myself, “who is that?”  I did not recognize myself and while I was trying to process all of it, I began crying.  Of course being in the hospital is different than crying in private.  You are surrounded by healthcare professionals who are watching you.  Of course, since my case was rare, I was even more closely watched.  A physician came to check up on me while I was crying and quickly was concerned about my emotional state.   Was crying not justified?  This of course prompted a psych consult.

I realized at that moment, I looked different and unfortunately I had no one I could talk to about it.  I tried talking to my nurses, my physicians and my parents.  They were all of course very compassionate and sympathetic.  However, they could not really understand what I was going through.

For over 2 years, I searched for someone to understand how I felt.  The only people that I could identify with were the veterans on television. I felt so alone and that there was no one like me.  As a nurse and cancer survivor, this was very frustrating to me.  I attended a conference on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and when we broke for lunch, I saw an individual with a disfigured face like mine.  It was an instant connection that I felt.  I was no longer alone.  We had lunch together and we have been friends from that day on.  There is something about a connection with someone who has been on the same roller coaster ride you have.  No words need to be spoken.  It is an immediate understanding.

The day that I no longer felt alone was the first day of my emotional recovery.  I look forward to talking to you, meeting you and listening to your concerns and answering your questions.

When I look in the mirror now, over 3 years now, I no longer see a stranger.  I see the new improved me.  It has been a journey but I wouldn’t change my experience.  I am blessed.

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