In the last week I’ve begun venturing out and that means that I’ve begun to see people. And people have begun to see me.
I’ve been noticing a very interesting reaction that almost everyone is having. Most people aren’t looking at me directly when they first see me; they keep their heads tilted away and then take a quick furtive glance when they think I’m not looking at them. I don’t know if they’re afraid what they’re going to see of if they don’t want to make me feel self-conscious.
Once they look at me, most people tell me how good I look, that it’s not nearly as bad as they were expecting. That’s probably because they’re thinking I’ll look the way I looked in the beginning! I’ve been healing amazingly fast and often I have a hard time believing that it was less than six weeks ago that my entire face was a swollen mass of blisters. Other than the medical staff, only my husband saw me at that point – last week he told me in the beginning he honestly wondered if and when I would look like myself again. It was very bad.
At first when people were telling me how it didn’t look so bad, it felt a bit invalidating. Like, oh, we thought something serious happened but it couldn’t have been so bad if you look like this now. That’s just how it felt to me, that’s of course not how it was intended. While I look a lot better now, no one is dreaming of looking like me and I don’t want to stay looking like this forever either.
I was wondering objectively what I look like since everyone is saying how good I look but I have a mirror and I know what I look like! Then a couple of evenings ago I went out and happened to bump into someone who didn’t know about my accident. She looked startled and after a couple of minutes of small talk while looking at me searchingly, asked straight out, “What happened to your face?”
So do I look amazing or do I look really bad? I look amazing, relative to what I went through. The redness of the new skin mostly covered the scarring in the initial period and for those who saw me then (on Pesach and right before) it looked like a very bad sunburn. Then the redness passed (in just a week! – the burn specialist told me it takes between 2 weeks to six months) and the scars were obvious. The front of my face is where the obvious marks are left; l have a lot of splotches across my forehead and all the way down to my chin, including my eyebrow area, eyelid and under the eyes. The splotches are a dark reddish color. But they’re fading and getting smaller.
The scars on the front of my neck up along to under my chin are sizeable but have faded to a light skin tone so while it’s visible it’s not jumping out at you, either. Twice a day I use a special cream to help with scarring that I got from the burn specialist in Jerusalem. The splash marks that were across the outer two thirds of my cheeks are totally gone. On the side of my neck and ear you can’t tell anything happened.
I have one burn mark on my hand that I didn’t treat at all – not purposely, just my face was more important and I didn’t pay any attention to it. This now serves as a reminder to me what my face could have looked like, what people are expecting it to look like, and what I was afraid I would look like. That scar is slightly raised, wrinkled and discolored and if the scars on my face looked like this it would be disfiguring.
I’m not going to post a photo of myself though I’m tempted to show a before and after picture (though I don’t have a picture from when the burns were the worst) just so you can appreciate how miraculous the difference is. People keep asking me when my face will be fully healed and the answer is, I don’t know. No one will tell me that I will totally heal – though I’m very optimistic that I will – and I certainly haven’t been given a timeline. I’m going back to the burn specialist in Jerusalem today and am looking forward to hearing her feedback.
I’ve been extremely conscientious about skin care and sun avoidance, and this is part of why my healing has been so good. The bigger part, I’m positive, is the prayers of so many people on my behalf. Thank you all!