Here it is: Waiting for a bus in Manhattan and thinking about the American Oystercatchers I’d seen at the beach last weekend. I’d loved seeing them using their long orange beaks to search for food along the shoreline. Suddenly the words of a little girl who is at the bus-stop jolt me out of my memory. She shouts, “Lady, you have a lot of bumps!”
On another occasion during a hot humid day, I am in a Starbucks, looking forward to getting a courtesy water to quench my thirst. A perfect stranger standing behind me points to my bumpy arm and demands,“what’s that?”
Neurofibromatosis is a condition with no known cure. More easily referred to as NF, it is one where six flat brownish-colored spots appear at birth. During the elementary school years of childhood lumps and bumps of different sizes and shapes appear all over the skin. NF is actually a nerve condition where tumors form on the end of the nerve cells. it’s not contagious, but many people think it is, which poses uncomfortable situations.
My book, “Imperfect Strangers,” is an autobiographical account of experiences I’ve had as a result of the general public reaction to any form of disfigurement.
The story begins from my perspective as a child beginning after I’ve just celebrated my fifth birthday. I’m fearful about the spots on my skin, saddened about being taunted for wearing “Coke Bottle glasses” since I turned three, and make a wish to be someone else.As my school years continue, the symptoms from NF become more exaggerated, altering my appearance. I’m bullied and take drastic measures to change how I look.
When I’m in college, an out-of-state doctor’s opinion is warranted for a possible tumor removal. I leave school to travel.
Challenges due to medical issues continue to occur in the workplace and everyday life. I do not give up, even though I continue to be bullied.
As the years pass, I realize physical healing from the ramifications of having NF will never be possible, nor will I be able to stop encounters where people ridicule me.
However, I ultimately come to see the “silver lining” in being born with physical afflictions.
It is through a cardinal who visits my NYC garden that I develop an awareness of avian creatures. This leads me to meet and observe other creatures in my midst. Every time I encounter members of the animal kingdom, my exchanges with people doing the same are pleasant.
People I meet while enjoying nature never question my looks, unlike situations at work places or when going about my daily business.
Something about observing our natural world brings persons of all ages, races, genders — with and without physical challenges — together.
I have informed by the publishing house that they will have an answer for me the first week of November.