I wanted to follow on from my last post on the blog about my journey with Ethmoid Sinus skin Cancer, and tell you more about the emotional challenges of becoming disfigured from facial cancer.
I am writing this blog to help others, I am also conscious that writing the experience from my perspective may not always make clear what really happens when this major change happens.
I am guilty of running away with my story sometimes, So I must stress that there is no such thing as “the same thing” when it comes to facial cancer.
At the time of writing this I now have my new prosthetic eye.
I can’t tell you how excited I was, finally I have my face back! When they presented it to me in its completed form, I slapped it on a marched out the hospital like a new man!
The amazing thing about losing a body part today is the expertise and technology to replace it.
A prosthesis is an artificial replacement part for your body. It may not perform the same way as the original part, but it offers a real solution.
Many people have life changing events happen to them, and dealing with that can be a real challenge.
You don’t have to look far for sources of inspiration for people who have embraced life with a prosthesis.
In 2012 I spent the summer in London having my Radiotherapy, there was a wonderful atmosphere in the city, but this year I paid more attention to the “after event”…
The 2012 Paralympic Games
I watched a showcase of amazing stories and bravery in the face of disability.
These competitors were born with disabilities, or indeed were disabled by illness, accident or war.
By some kind of comparison I guessed I also qualified as a “disabled person now” Obviously I was not disabled, but I was no longer “able bodied” I was fascinated by the athletes.
It struck me, they would all of had to accept their disabled life at different points, and for different reasons, but here they are challenging themselves here in heroic fashion.
What all of these competitors share apart from being disabled is that they must have accepted that they will never be the same as able-bodied people, but they were not going to be beaten.
When they looked in the mirror, they made a change.
Acceptance is a hard emotion to master.
Acceptance is recognising you may never win a “race”. Your defect may not give you an equal standing, but why should this matter?
The truth is if like me, you wear any sort of prosthetic and you are reading this, your journey or “race” has already started.
You are already a competitor. Some fly over the finishing line, some will never reach it.
Some need help and support, a helping hand, but everyone I know who has gone through such a traumatic experience and fared well did this…
Wear a smile
If you have the challenge of adapting to life with a prosthesis then it is important to remain focused and positive. Often it is not the physical loss but the mental adjustment that is harder to deal with.
My story is not of real physical disability. Losing an eye and part of your face is more of a mental challenge, it is a situation that pulls on emotions such as insecurity, despair, anxiety, paranoia.
What I know is that inner strength is not just about bring resilient, it is many things, but mainly it’s about being confident. Confidence is a word, but also a mind-set. It is also something you can master. You may not feel the same, you may not look the same but w smile is a simple thing that makes a huge difference.
A smile isn’t just about the mouth. When we smile a change happens in our bodies, in our body language, in our minds.
Never underestimate the power of a smile, as the saying goes “when you smile, the world smiles with you.”
A close family member told me once that she would forfeit anything to preserve her face. Some may think this a shallow statement, but there is more than just aesthetics to consider when a face is disfigured.
We are humans. We are not unique in the sense that we look for differences in each other, or pick up on signals that help us communicate. A smile, a frown, a flare of the nostrils, a squint of the eye. This is true of almost any species of animal on this planet so it is easy to understand that to lose the ability to communicate effectively is hard to adjust to.
What else can happen?
The problem can then extend further. Communication with ourselves.
How we communicate with ourselves directly affects the way we communicate with others.
What If you tell yourself that life is bad, that you are upset and you despair, maybe you might say you are just ok, average, feeling low. If that’s what you tell yourself, how does that translate to everyone else?
What about paranoia? What are people thinking about you? Are they staring? Are they talking about you? This communication to yourself directly affects how others communicate with you, put another way the quality of your life is directly affected by the way you communicate with yourself.
Do not fear what the is not real.
I watched a movie called “After Earth” and while its theme has nothing to do with me or my story, there is a quote in the movie which makes perfect sense to me:
“Fear is not real. The only place that fear can exist is in our thoughts of the future. It is a product of our imagination, causing us to fear things that do not at present and may not ever exist. That is near insanity. Do not misunderstand me danger is very real but fear is a choice.”
We are all live our lives in our own way, thankfully many people are able to look in the mirror and at least accept what they see.
Some people who look different will say they are not ready to make the choice yet, or they can’t or it’s not easy.
I say you are ready when you absolutely decide you are ready. You can choose your own story.
Be strong, it is YOU verses YOU and only one of you will win!
When you look at the man in the mirror and ask him to make a change, take a little k at yourself and make that CHANGE! ❤️
I wish you all love and courage xx Dan xx
Please continue reading and share my story so it may hopefully help someone else