My initial introduction to this life was rough, to say the least. Eight weeks after I was born, I had my first surgery. During the next five years, I had eight more surgeries on my mouth and hand. By my mom’s count, I went on to have nearly twenty surgeries altogether by the time I turned seventeen.
After I started school, I began to have surgeries in the summertime, which resulted in having a love/hate relationship with summer. Typically, children attend school nine months out of the year and summertime is their reward. Therefore, a child always looks forward to summer because it means unobstructed playtime. There are no schedules to keep and you don’t have to get up early to go to school.
A typical summer day for me consisted of having breakfast, then going outside to play and that didn’t stop until it was nearly dark. My day consisted of playing outside with my brother, playing basketball with my friends, and riding my bike beyond the geographical boundaries that my mom had set. These were fun times. An added activity involved picking blackberries with my brother, which meant being later rewarded for our labor with piping hot blackberry cobbler and a scoop of ice cream. It truly doesn’t get any better than that.
Yet, this only defined part of my summer. Each summer, like clockwork, I had to have yet another surgery. This usually involved staying at the hospital for a week or two that included enduring hourly interruptions from the nurses so they could care for my wounds, and early wakeup calls, only then to go home with my face still swollen from the operation. This made it difficult for me to go outside and play with my friends, knowing the inevitable questions would arise. Questions like “Why do you look like you do?”, or, “Did you just get in a fight?” I never got used to those questions and they seemed to cut me deep inside. While I loved summertime, I simultaneously disliked it because I knew what was ahead.