Last year I wrote an article for a disfigurement charity called Changing Faces.
Their campaign called “what success looks like” is about empowering disfigured people, so I really wanted to get involved. As a result of my article I was asked if I was interested in doing a photo shoot, I love a photo!
Here is my article!
My name is Daniel Jackson and just over 2 years ago I was diagnosed with cancer in one of my sinuses which would mean the removal of my eye orbit (not just the eyeball, the whole lot!)
I have undergone various operations over the last couple of years, starting with the removal of my tumour and eye socket, to then have titanium implants bolted into my skull to hold a prosthetic eye. I had hoped that would mark the end of my ordeal, but it wasn’t to be. The skin tissues that were used to conceal the hole left by the removal of the eye failed. Slowly but surely the skin fell away and over a period of 18 months revealed a cavernous hole that you could see and touch the cranial base all the way down to the back of my throat. This was only recently resolved when I had a 13.5 hour procedure to fill and cover the hole with skin and muscle transplanted from my back. The transplanted tissues needed a blood supply, and that was provided from my neck arteries, which meant that the surgeon had to cut open my face all the way down to my neck to plumb in the new vein. My full story and pictures are found on www.igoggle.wordpress.com.
I always justified the surgery as a life with a huge facial scar is always better than one with a hole in my head!
As I pick up the pieces and attempt to rebuild my life, I remember that just before I was diagnosed (the same day in fact)I went for a job interview for a recruitment company. The role would involve me meeting employers, and selling the service to them. Image and presentation are regarded as very important. For a few months I had been having problems with a watery eye, and it had now caused my eye to be red and sore, and the tissues looked bruised. Yes, it looked like a black eye! (turned out to be the result of the cancer) This was in fact one of the first times I had to explain myself for having a noticeable facial feature. The interview went well (I was offered the job which I later had to decline)and I guess it did because I spoke confidently, I could laugh at myself, and that puts everyone at ease.
The news of my impending disfigurement added with the fear of the cancer was hard to deal with. The conversations I had to have with everyone was always met with shock and pity no matter how much I laughed it off. I wondered how much laughing off would it take to treat me other than a facially disfigured cancer sufferer.
Life had been put on hold while I underwent radiotherapy, chemo, recovery etc etc. In this period I started my relationship with eye patches which I found frustrating as they were all so naff! If you have to wear an eye patch, you surely want to look good, and I could find nothing that remotely made that happen. If you wear an eye patch, you stand out. It’s that simple. To the general public an eye patch is hiding something, or is it? The question of why is then put into the mix and it seems the urge to ask why becomes too great, and perfect strangers ask me why I wear an eye patch. This never happened when I had a black eye, as it was obvious that I had been fighting! An eye patch means that people cannot assume why. The inherent desire to judge and categorize impacts our lives, and although I have been unable to work due to ongoing treatments etc it has made me wonder if I will ever be treated normally again.
This whole experience has been life changing, but I still have a life and for that I am eternally grateful. In preparing for the new chapter in my life I have set up and am launching my own brand of eye patches.
“iGoggle” is my brand name, and they go on sale on 1st July 2014 (www.igoggle.co.uk)
This exciting venture is something I am so passionate about, and I hope it does well. However I am now at the point where I have to earn real money (not the dream money I hope I will earn)and I am looking at different jobs.
What I suppose is interesting is that I am not wanting to apply for jobs which I used to do. Is this because I am worried what people will think? Not really I just have different priorities.
So is my story a success story? I hope it is. Having the right attitude has got me this far, and I know it will take me where I want in life. I ran a marathon about a month after my last surgery, and I wrote something for a local school likening school life to a marathon. It went something like: A marathon is a huge distance, you cant just turn up and not try. It takes dedication, but that still is not enough to get you through, you have to want to make it. One of my favorite teachers once said that if you want something enough, you will get there. You can be whatever you want to be but you will have to work for it. He was certainly right and I never forgot his wise words. Its easy to think about giving up because you will never make it, or someone has told you your not capable. If you decide it is what you want then nobody can stop you.
Here are some of my pictures
“I think the images show confidence and celebration of my deformity,” he says. “Success is an ambiguous word, it has no measure other than the one you apply. Success is about a journey, and in this case my pictures show how I’ve strived to accept myself and celebrate a journey to face life in a new way.”