Have you ever had something happen to you, and from that moment on everything changes? I wanted to follow on from my last post on the blog about my journey with Ethmoid Sinus Cancer, and tell you more about my prosthetic eye, how it is made, what it is like to wear one and what does it mean to someone who wears a prosthetic.
As much as I am writing this blog to help other’s, I am also conscious that writing the experience from my perspective may not always make clear what really happens when this major change happens, and so this is my story of my new prosthetic eye, and the challenges of living with change.
The amazing thing about losing a body part today is the expertise and technology to replace it.
A prosthesis is an artificial replacement part for your body. It may not perform the same way as the original part, but it offers a real solution.
Many people have life changing events happen to them, and dealing with that can be a real challenge.
You don’t have to look far for sources of inspiration for people who have embraced life with a prosthesis. The 2012 Paralympic Games was a showcase of amazing stories and bravery in the face of disability. These competitors were born with disabilities, or indeed were disabled by illness, accident or war. They may have all had to accept their life at a different point, and for different reasons.
What all of these competitors share apart from being disabled is that they accept that they will never be the same as able-bodied people, but they are not going to be beaten. They may not win the race, but they wear a smile doing it.
Acceptance is a hard emotion to master. Acceptance is recognising you may never win a “race”. Your defect may not give you an equal standing, but why should this matter?
The truth is if you wear any sort of prosthetic and you are reading this, your journey or “race” has already started. You are already a competitor.
Wear a smile
If you have the challenge of adapting to life with a prosthesis then it is important to remain focused and positive. Often it is not the physical loss but the mental adjustment that is harder to deal with.
My story is not of real physical disability. Losing an eye and part of your face is more of a mental challenge, it is a situation that pulls on emotions such as insecurity, despair, anxiety, paranoia.
What I know is that inner strength is not just about bring resilient, it is many things, but mainly it’s about being confident. Confidence is a word, but also a mind-set. It is also something you can master. You may not feel the same, you may not look the same but there is a simple thing that makes a huge difference.
Wear a smile.
A smile isn’t just about the mouth. When we smile a change happens in our bodies, in our body language, in our minds. Never underestimate the power of a smile, as the saying goes “when you smile, the world smiles with you.”
A close family member told me once that she would forfeit anything to preserve her face. Some may think this a shallow statement, but there is more than just aesthetics to consider when a face is disfigured.
We are humans. We are not unique in the sense that we look for differences in each other, or pick up on signals that help us communicate. A smile, a frown, a flare of the nostrils, a squint of the eye. This is true of almost any species of animal on this planet so it is easy to understand that to lose the ability to communicate effectively is hard to adjust to.
What else can happen?
The problem can then extend further. Communication with ourselves.
How we communicate with ourselves directly affects the way we communicate with others.
What If you tell yourself that life is bad, that you are upset and you despair, maybe you might say you are just ok, average, feeling low. If that’s what you tell yourself, how does that translate to everyone else?
What about paranoia? What are people thinking about you? Are they staring? Are they talking about you? This communication to yourself directly affects how others communicate with you, put another way the quality of your life is directly affected by the way you communicate with yourself.
Write your own story
I just watched a movie called “After Earth” and while its theme has nothing to do with me or my story, nor am I a film critic, all I will say is that it was ok. There is a quote in the movie which makes perfect sense to me:
“Fear is not real. The only place that fear can exist is in our thoughts of the future. It is a product of our imagination, causing us to fear things that do not at present and may not ever exist. That is near insanity. Do not misunderstand me danger is very real but fear is a choice. We are all telling ourselves a story and that day mine (His story, once he realised that fear is a choice) changed.”
I not suggesting we live in a dream world (although many people do, happily) but I do believe that we all have a choice. Some people will say they are not ready to make the choice yet, or they can’t or it’s not easy.
I say you are ready when you absolutely decide you are ready. You can choose your own story.