Donna Smaldone
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Thursday / June 21 / 2012

Embracing disfigurement

The roasting Myrtle-Beach-like humidity made me opt for a skort as I readied for Pilates. Passing the full-length mirror in my bedroom, I would normally notice the blinding paleness of my sun-starved legs. But today my eyes immediately scanned the exposed burn scar on my right leg — and my eyes welled-up.

For a moment, I was overwhelmed.

Overwhelmed with gratitude… and grace.

My scar represents so much, not the least of which is my gratefulness to even have a leg.

For a moment, I considered how differently my body would look if I had a “normal” leg, even squinting my eyes in an attempt to visualize it. For 25 years I’ve nurtured and revered my scarred leg. If I could wave a magic wand and make the scar disappear — yes, I would relish the thought — but would decline the alteration.

I don’t see my burn scar as something that needs repair. I see it as tangible proof of the grace that spared my life.

Everyone reacts differently when they catch a glimpse of my disfigurement. Just the other day, I mentioned to my husband Skip how many eyes were noticing my scar now that it’s shorts weather again.

Reactions vary depending how the individual copes with someone else looking ‘visibly different’. Studies have shown that the general population often tries to avoid having to look at the disfigurement. I’ve found this to be true with adults; however, children tend to point in authentic amazement, typically adding some sort of, “Whoa!

I envy their freedom.

Given the extreme nature of the car accident, I shouldn’t have my right leg. By rights, I should be wheelchair-bound or at best, walking with a severe limp and a cane. In many respects, I have no business even being alive.

But I am. And I treasure the gift. I can’t answer the “why”s and “what if”s, but I can grasp hold of the kite that is life and if I choose, enjoy the freedom of flight. And friends… I love to soar!

I’m the first to recognize when someone sees my burn scar for the first time, it is shocking. It will take you aback. But those who’ve already had that ‘first glance’, who embrace me — also embrace my scar simply because it’s part of who I am.

As I entered the Elevation Pilates studio, Kathy and Sandy embraced me with their words,
–“Love the skort!”
–“You look so cute!”

You see… it’s not really about the skort or even the disfigurement. It’s about who I am and with whom I choose to surround myself.

 

13 responses to “Embracing disfigurement”

  1. Julie says:

    You are beautiful!! Thanks for this blog…. I have struggled with the scar on my face… but again, it is a sign of God’s grace that “the melanoma” was found and taken off and I am just fine. I love you so much!!

    • Donna Smaldone says:

      Thank you. YOU are beautiful, too, Jules. It’s only natural to struggle when something changes in your appearance, especially when it’s because of something traumatic. The key is not staying in that place. I love you back!

      Love,
      Donna

  2. Debbie says:

    Love you so much, Sissy!! Xoxo

    • Donna Smaldone says:

      I am beautiful in part because of the beauty that flows through you to me, my cherished baby Sissy. I adore you!

      Love,
      Donna

  3. Rick says:

    Donna, with a smile that lights up any room, and a matching attitude that is contagious, who could possibly focus on your “scar” for long? You are a great Lady, my friend!

  4. Pam Fisher says:

    I initially read this while on vacation at the beach. It was hotter than heck, and my new cochlear implant processor sat on my sweaty and itchy head. With my hair down, I could cover evidence of the processor, but it also added an extra layer of heat to what was already an 100 degree day. And still, even among family, I kept my hair down. This past Monday, I had a first. I wore a “work ponytail,” the processor slightly visible if someone was to look hard enough, I suppose. And of course, it went unnoticed. Recently, my husband said this to me (and I plan to write about this soon): “You got to OWN it.” It is so difficult to embrace a difference, especially if you’ve been at odds with whatever that difference is for such a long period of time. Thanks for the reminder that we ALL have SOMETHING, and that in time, we can OWN it, APPRECIATE it, and even be THANKFUL for it.

    • Donna Smaldone says:

      I love reading your heart, Pam. Thank you for sharing it with us here and for reminding us that we ALL have something! …own it!

      Love,
      Donna

  5. Julie Maurais says:

    You’ve always been a wonderful person in my eyes….for those who don’t know you they are missing out, because there are few people who light up like a christmas tree like you do when we get together. You are the sunshine when there is none. 🙂

    • Donna Smaldone says:

      You have always been a wonderful person in my eyes, too! Thank you, Julie. You just made my heart smile.

      Love,
      Donna

  6. skye says:

    Thank you for your blog. I have scars on my thighs…. both sides and it has caused me a lot of embarrassment and shame because they are from an elective procedure. Now I am looking at ways to embrace them. To accept the choice I made and forgive myself. Reading your story inspired me. Thank you ~

    • Donna Smaldone says:

      Thank you for your comments, Skye. What a powerful testimony you have about embracing who you are, inside and out. No human being is perfect and we all have scars. Some “show” more than others but we all have them. It’s how we deal with them that makes all the difference. Elective or not, I applaud your bravery. Thank you for sharing your story with us. And thank you for reading!

      Love,
      Donna

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