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Learning to Love Myself and My Scars From Multiple Hereditary Exostoses

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One thing I can vividly remember through the brain fog is looking at my legs in the mirror before my first surgery. I was born with multiple hereditary exostoses. MHE is a rare bone disease characterized by pain, growth deformities and benign bone tumors that do have the chance of becoming malignant. My MHE is even rarer as I am the first in my family to have it. I stared at the golf ball poking out of my knee and I remember the excitement I felt knowing my legs were going to look smooth, look “normal.”

After enduring years and years of torment from my peers because of my tumors, I couldn’t wait to get rid of the deformities and the stares. I had 12 tumors removed from my legs and hand, and in their places six bright and fresh scars. I was hoping to lose the stares, but the scars just attracted more. I never used foundation on my face; instead I used it to poorly cover up my scars. The more surgeries, the more tumors taken out. The more tumors taken out, the more scars. The more scars, the more self-conscious I became. I was tormented for the hardest part of my life. Each passing year I became more and more depressed and isolated. My self-hatred led to years of emotionally abusive relationships. My depression got to the point where I was on 12 different antidepressants and anxiety meds per day. During that time, my stomach issues morphed into anorexia. I was at the lowest point of my life when I had my first MHE-related cancer scare.

At that point, I decided something had to change. “Change your thinking, change your world;” the most important step on the long, arduous road to recovery was to change the way I saw myself. Whenever I caught myself putting myself down, I would literally stop my inner monologue and force myself to say something positive about myself. I forced myself to face the thing I hated most about myself: my MHE.

young woman with glasses sitting cross-legged on a chair at work and smiling

When I looked at my scars, I forced myself to think back to my struggle, to how far I’ve come. To how many times I’ve re-learned how to walk. I forced it until it I learned to love the very things I used to hate. My scars are my battle wounds, my limp the proof I never give up. After 22 years of self-loathing I learned to love myself. I’m now 23 and I’m so proud to say my favorite scar is my two-foot-long one – one I would have despised this time three years ago. I no longer see my 11 chronic illnesses as a weakness, but rather my biggest source of motivation and strength.

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Originally published: February 24, 2017
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