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How I Turned a Routine Treatment Into a Celebration

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I started having laser treatments on my port wine stain birthmark as a newborn. Growing up, it was tradition that I’d take a stuffed animal into every appointment, and then we’d stop for lunch at a two-story Chuck E Cheese after each procedure. Our stop for pizza was then always proceeded by a stop at an outlet mall, where my mother would spend up to $10 on a new toy or book. As an adult, our Chuck E Cheese tradition has changed to a stop at a Jamba Juice, followed by a second stop at a fruit stand, Casa de Fruta.

Just a month or so ago, I had my 50th treatment.

Yep. You read that right: My 50th.

Each treatment sends about 300 laser pulses through my skin, bursting and cauterizing the blood vessels in my face. Multiply that by 300, and that’s about 15,000 laser pulses total within 24 years. (Without the treatments, my birthmark is at risk for growth and can develop medical complications. Even with the treatments, my birthmark has experienced some slight growth.)

About a week or so before my treatments, I always get anxious and stressed. The smells, sounds and pain are imbedded in my mind, and I do not look forward to the appointment.

When I realized I was coming up on my 50th treatment, however, I knew I had to do something fun. People always throw a big birthday bash when someone turns 50, so why not do something similar for my 50th treatment? After all, if something isn’t naturally fun, that just means you gotta find a way to make it fun — right?

Here are seven ways I made my 50th fun:

1. I made ninja sugar cookies with birthmarks.

Okay, strike that. I made wanna-be ninja cookies with birthmarks. Instead, they look like people in weird onesie pajamas doing awkward dance moves. Clearly, I am not destined to be a professional cookie designer.

The left image shows a blob of doe and cookie cutters that looks like people. On the right is a cookie with a birth mark on its face.
My first batch looked like sumo wrestlers. So BAM. Here’s a sumo wrestler with a birthmark. #Flexibility

Cookies shaped like people with birthmarks on their face

2I got my nails done.

Making an appointment with my aunt’s talented friend, I had my nails painted with the logo of The Vascular Birthmarks Foundation (VBF). Not only are they the leading nonprofit for vascular birthmarks, but I am their social media coordinator and anti-bullying campaign manager — so it seemed fitting.

Crystal's nails. They are light blue with red hearts except for the middle -- which is light blue with three white figures holding hands.

3. I got purple highlight. 

Girls have to color coordinate, right? So that’s what I did.  I went to my hair guy and got a few purple highlights put in, color coordinating my hair to my face. I mean, after all, if my face is permanently purple — what are a few temporary purple highlights?

Crystal with purple streaks in her hair.

4. We went to Jamba Juice and Casa De Fruta…Keeping the tradition alive.

Casa De Fruta has the best rocky road (candy) that’s impossible to say “no” to, and it’s a great place to stock back up on for ice. The drive from Fremont to Casa De Fruta is also a beautiful one. Nothing compares to the view. (I should point out that the drive to each treatment is three hours each way.)

5. My baby niece went with me.

Once my treatment was complete, I received instant baby snuggles. Now that, my friend, is the way to have a treatment.

Crystal and her baby niece.
She is the cutest, I know.

6. We bought party hats and glasses, and I took selfies with my doctor.  (Yeah, he’s pretty great.) 

A sash was also on my list, but I didn’t want to get too wild.


7. I wore my Natalie Grant necklace, “Faith Over Fear.”

Every treatment I wear one of her pieces. I wear a different one every treatment, varying on my mood and struggles. During this treatment, I also wore her “Dare to Be” bracelet, reminding me to dare to be confident, beautiful, known and loved — during and after the treatment.


Turning my 50th laser treatment into a party didn’t take the physical pain away. However, it did give me something fun to focus on, decreasing my pre-anxiety and stress, all while creating a way for me to celebrate my strength and milestone. (I’m not sure we celebrate our moments of strength enough.)  It made the days leading up to treatment more enjoyable, and what was once a medical procedure got turned into a party. All it took was a different, refreshed perspective.

Do you, too, have to have medical treatments, and do you have a tradition for each one? Or, is there anything you’re struggling with? Are there any situations in your life that need a bit more fun added to them? Embrace your creativity. You never know what you’ll come up with.

 The Travelin’ Chick,


Follow this journey on The Travelin’ Chick.

Originally published: March 13, 2016
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