When I was merely an infant, I was diagnosed with retinoblastoma. It’s a type of cancer where tumors grow on the back of your eye (on the retina). Because of the size and placement of one of the tumors, the safest thing to do was remove my right eye. So I have lived most of my life with a prosthetic.
Because I was so young, I easily adapted to being blind in one eye. There are times when I forget that I’m not “normal” but at other times, it’s painfully obvious. Like when my best friend called me a cyclops in 3rd grade. Or anytime I look in the mirror…
I have shared my story online, and in my book, “Mirror Mirror… Am I Beautiful?” but last week I was invited to be part of a panel that discussed reclaiming our identity after a serious illness or disability. You see, my story isn’t all that unique. Yes, it’s mine. But while my circumstances may be different, so many of us face illnesses or have disabilities that change our lives.
Even with those circumstances we can’t change, we do have the choice of whether or not we will let our circumstances break us. We can chose to find our true identity at the foot of the cross and use our circumstances for the glory of God. It took me quite a few years to learn that lesson, but it’s definitely a lesson worth learning.
A special thanks to April Boyer from Resting In His Shadow for hosting this panel.
In the past few year’s since this panel, April’s website has been taken offline. However, I still wanted to share my answers to the panel questions with you.
How did your illness affect your self-image?
I lost my right-eye to cancer when I was less than a year old, so I’ve basically lived my whole life with a prosthetic. While it was made by a very talented professional, it’s still obvious that it’s not the same as my other eye. I have known since I was small that I would never be beautiful. I spent countless nights crying myself to sleep over that reality.
Did your illness affect how you relate to others?
Having cancer and losing my eye completely changed the way I looked at others. I believe I have more compassion because of it. I am more willing to accept people who are “different” because I am different.
Did your illness affect you emotionally? And if so, why?
While I can’t say if my cancer affected me emotionally when I was small, I know it has affected me greatly as I grew. While I have been cancer-free for over thirty years, the effects it had on me will linger forever. I am changed, whether I remember life before cancer or not. I have days when I fully trust in Jesus and praise Him for all He’s brought me through, and I have days where I fall at His feet and just need to be loved by Him.
Did your illness affect how you ministered to others or how to serve God?
The cancer I had was genetic and it was passed onto my son. Because I had lived through it, I truly believe I was able to handle it better as a mom. Both my cancer, and the cancer of my son, have impacted my faith in a positive way, and I am able to share that faith with others in a way someone who has never struggled with cancer never could. I have a ministry for teen girls (FindYourTrueBeauty.com) and I am able to speak into the hearts and lives of girls who aren’t flawlessly beautiful by the world’s standards because I’m not either. I’m able to come along side of other moms whose kids are suffering and testify to God’s goodness. God has definitely used cancer in my life to reach others for His glory.
How did you realize that your worth to Christ did not change?
I never really had a revelation about my worth to Christ, but over the years God slowly worked in my heart. I started realizing how God had used my cancer experience to make me into the person I am. It’s like I’ve always known that my cancer was part of what drew me to Him because it made me humble. And at one point I had to realize that I either believe God’s Word or not. Either I was made in His image, or I wasn’t. Either I was His child, or I was a child of Satan. I remember clinging to Galatians 3:28. It says, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” I remember realizing that God loves us all the same… and that meant me, too.
Is there someone who encouraged you in your journey?
I wish I could tell you that someone came alongside me and ministered to my hurting heart, but for me, it was a deeply personal journey. I’m an introvert by nature and I don’t always share my feelings. I tend to keep them to myself. Most people probably never even realized I struggled with my self-image and worth. But God did, and because of Him I knew I was never alone.
What is a favorite verse that affirms your worth?
“You are altogether beautiful, my darling; there is no flaw in you.” Song of Songs 4:7 (NIV)
I’d Love To Hear From You
Can you relate to my circumstances? Or have you been affected by series illness in your life? I would love to hear from you in the comments below.