Monday, April 04, 2011

Going Under the Laser

While I was called brave for going out in public so soon after, I can't say that I'm brave enough to post pictures of the procedure. Maybe I'll be brave enough one of these days, but not today! In the meantime, I decided to post this picture that one of my best friend's tweaked just a few days ago (and because it's one of my current favorites of my adorable husband!):

So what exactly was this procedure I had just over three weeks ago?

First, a little back story that led up to this big decision:

Almost two years ago, my husband accompanied me to my bi-annual appointment at the Tuberous Sclerosis Clinic. Upon entering the waiting area and signing, we couldn't help but notice a woman sitting in one of the chairs. She was there alone. This isn't the type of clinic where I have seen patients there by themselves, so this woman and the absence of a friend or family member struck me. Not only was she at the clinic alone, but I also momentarily observed her complexion. If you're one who knows me well enough, you would see the large red areas on my jawline and cheek. It's an area that gets more puffy in the heat of summertime, and hurts considerably if I have even the slightest breakout on the skin there. Well...that red is what covered this woman's entire face. It made me sad to see her in the waiting room by herself...

In comparison to testimonies I have read and people whom I have met personally, I have it easy. Considering the common symptoms and how much more painful (emotionally and physically) things could be, I count myself fortunate to only have some of the more mild manifestations of TS. I go every five years to have an MRI of my brain, and a scan of my chest and kidneys to ensure that all is okay internally. Externally speaking, I have the primary skin manifestations which have gradually worsened over time. With each passing year, I notice the overall condition of my skin worsening ever so slightly, and the redness becomes more noticeable (and painful depending on where it's located).

While some claim to hardly notice the imperfections, I see my skin in the mirror every morning and night. Some days I would consider myself fairly content, but most days I look and wonder what if. What if I had a more smooth complexion, areas that weren't so sensitive to the slightest irritation...what if my face wasn't so red and textured...what if I had some guarantee that my skin would not continue to worsen over time? If I'm not hearing the Gospel, if I'm not hearing that I was beautifully and wonderfully created, I'm prone to the downward spiral of self-pity. And this is where my husband comes in - my nurturing, comforting, truth-speaking husband. My husband calls me beautiful not to merely make me feel better about myself, but because he believes it. He believes that beauty is more than skin-deep and that, even with imperfections I can do little to nothing about, I am lovely. I struggle to hear that on the days when I'm not clinging to the Truth that I am created in the image of God. My husband desires that I see myself as he sees me (and as HE sees me), and that my imperfections are not cause for me to think less of myself. With all of this at the foundation of his encouragement, he has continued to support any decision I make regarding treatment options. He knows that anything considered "cosmetic" would be a leap for me, a step of faith both physically and emotionally. After many months of thinking through my options (and often over-analyzing all that "cosmetic" means in my head), I decided to schedule a consultation with the plastic surgeon affiliated with my dermatologist's practice.

After a very comfortable discussion with the doctor, I was even more certain that this particular procedure would be a good option. Not only was she understanding of my concern that it wouldn't work, that I would not see the change I was hoping for, but she also understood my concerns regarding the cost and frustration of dealing with insurance. She gave me plenty of information upfront so that I would know all the facts about what I was going to have done. So just a couple of weeks after the consultation, I scheduled the procedure date. The doctor performed what is referred to as a CO2 laser procedure, one of the primary treatment options for those who experience the skin manifestations of Tuberous Sclerosis. The laser literally vaporizes the skin, as well as collapsing blood vessels. I will spare all the details, but she went layer by layer on my skin for the larger areas, some of which were much more deep than others. While I was awake during the procedure, I was far from coherent! We laugh now that I don't remember all that much from the first two days following the procedure (and that I scared two little boys while walking out to the parking garage!), what with the medications they gave me, the exhaustion I had from anxiety leading up to the procedure, and the simple fact of my body healing after something so intense.

Leading up to the day, we were a little overwhelmed by all of the post-op instructions we were given. There were very set steps, especially during the first week, for healing fully. From cold gauze treatments every three hours to applying two different ointments to my face (affectionately referred to as "the goopies") to elevating my head when I slept to not being in even indirect sunlight...we were overwhelmed. But little did we know just how tiring those first couple of days would be. Because I was so helpless during those first 48 hours or so, I was all the more overwhelmed and grateful for my husband's care. He slept a total of three hours during the first three days, all for the sake of ensuring that I was comfortable and that we were following the post-op instructions. He handled all of the cold gauze treatments, applied the ointments on my face, and served me the food that was brought to us from our dear church friends. Once I began feeling more like myself, I realized the impact of how much my husband had done. I was amazed and moved to tears numerous times during the week following the procedure as I thought of all he had to done for the sake of my comfort as I slowly began to heal.

I continue to heal and wonder about the end result. I see small steps, but I'm also a near-sighted individual who lacks patience. At my followup appointments to come I will have a better idea of how the doctor thinks things are going and if I will possibly need additional spot treatments down the road. The resurfacing of my skin is already noticeable, but the other more intense areas will simply take longer. This procedure has taught me alot about myself and where my heart is. I wouldn't recommend this kind of thing to just anyone, simply because there is an internal struggle with whether or not an individual puts misplaced value in the results. I know that I won't be a better person because my skin is pretty. I know that I won't be more valuable as a person or to others because of a "flawless" complexion. What I do know is that I am at a place where I was able to take advantage of a wonderful opportunity. More than anything, this process of healing provided a time for real and sweet rest, as well as growing even closer to my husband. The first time I shed a tear wondering if this procedure would be worth it, his response was, "Nothing ventured, nothing gained." He has always faithfully encouraged and pointed my heart towards Christ, and this experience has been no exception. He makes me want to be brave~


BreAnna Fowler said...

Love that pic! Great post. Miss ya'll!

Amber said...

:) HUGS!

Terri said...

Still praying for you!

Foxychica94 said...

Beautiful post:)