by Katrina Hawkins
Lorene sat on the couch wondering how her life was so different. Her answer? Scars. Physical and emotional scars impacted her life every day. She had grown up fast, skipping the fun adventurous things many went through in school, and learning life wasn’t all sunshine and roses. It all started when she was ten years old she remembered. She was athletic, popular, and above all happy and carefree.
That all changed when one morning she couldn’t walk. The doctors said it was growing pains but x-rays shown a different story. Lorene remembered the day that changed her life, leaning her head to see the scars on her ankles. She remembered studying them as she swung her legs on the hospital table seeing the huge scars on her feet. Doctors said she drank too much milk that caused it but she never believed it, if it were true it would be more than just in one place. As she sat on the hospital table she subconsciously touched her stomach, during the surgery they didn’t find enough fat in her feet and had to take fat from her stomach. See her body turned her cartilage to bone between the three joints above the ankle, causing bone to grind against bone. When she woke up from surgery with three scars instead of two it made her worry and even more sore. She hoped for good news, her parents met her gaze with reassuring smiles promising it would be okay. She had been six months in casts up to her knees having done a double foot surgery.
At first the kids at school thought it was cool to sign her casts and take her to lunch in her wheelchair but soon it all changed. She hoped the doctor had good news as he opened the door and slipped in. Bullying wasn’t fun, and she wanted to get back to normal and forget the nicknames they thought were so funny such as Granny or Cripple, just let her be normal again. The doctor stared at her for a long moment; she waited feeling butterflies in her stomach as he glanced at her parents as if trying to find the words. That day she received bad news, she had a rare foot disease called Triple Tarsal Coalition. It was a disease found in 80 year old women and she was now a statistic. Lorene was 1 in 800,000 people to ever have this disease and the youngest ever recorded.
The doctor said there was nothing he could do for her except to make her cripple then and there to keep from the pain by locking her ankles in place to keep from unnecessary pain. Her parents refused they wanted a second opinion before cutting on their daughter again. Lorene remembered being in shock and seeing her mother fighting tears, her father wrapping an arm around Lorene, and both telling a professional he was wrong. The Doctor told Lorene and her family that she would not be able to walk by the time she was 18 years old. Lorene wanted to travel the world it was something she had always dreamed of doing when she grew up. Now all she saw for her future was a wheelchair, her dreams were crushed that day within ten minutes of the doctor telling her the news.
Many years and too many doctors to count caused Lorene to fall into a deep depression, the bullying continued. Most the doctors wouldn’t touch Lorene because the original doctor was so highly respected and no one believed they could do better. High school was a nightmare, the teachers even bullied her, and she couldn’t take it. She had lost her uncle and best friend within a few years of each other to suicide. She didn’t understand why it had to be her. She watched her younger sister play sports and silently wonder why she couldn’t be normal like her sister. It made no sense why she had to go through this when no one else in her family had this condition. At least with cancer patients they could go through treatment and see results. With Lorene’s disease there was no treatment plan, no promising outcome, just to suffer through it the rest of her life. One day it was just too much and she snapped at a girl who had started bullying her worse than the others.
The week she snapped she had been to the ER twice because of the pain. She threatened suicide, an effort to get them to realize she was tired of the bullying and pain. The counselor spoke to her mom who was scared—having lost her brother to suicide and knowing Lorene’s best friend who committed suicide as well. She knew Lorene was hurt, depressed but she wasn’t ready to give up on a miracle.
The trouble with the high school was the counselors didn’t believe Lorene, thinking she was just seeking attention. She refused to see two of the counselors and finally the one to speak to her mother was a family friend and understood the situation but couldn’t help. The kids making fun were popular, playing sports and prominent parents in the community. Lorene felt helpless and that’s why she snapped, she had no friends, her friends from childhood avoided her because if they were friends they would be bullied as well. Her parents were in the school fighting for some kind of relief for their daughter but to no avail. Her parents didn’t stop searching for a doctor that could give her daughter a miracle.
With bullying and pain it was bad, there were a lot of nights she would scream in pain and her parents couldn’t do anything. Lorene remembered going out with family and holding her dad’s arm because it hurt to walk and he took some of the weight for her, driving around for a close parking spot just for her. Lorene remembered getting depressed, tired of it all especially hearing the same promises. They went to church religiously; they raised their kids to believe in miracles but after years of pastors and family friends praying for a miracle Lorene lost her faith. Her family carried her through it not giving up; preaching to her to keep her head up that God was working on a miracle she just had to be patient. Lorene chuckled, miracles come in all shapes and sizes she knew that now. Lorene remembered the counselor telling her to go back to class and telling her mother that she didn’t think Lorene was suicidal she was just using words to describe how she felt—she was giving up on hope.
The counselor gave her mom a doctor’s name to try, her son had back problems and went to the specialty hospital, and she heard they had an awesome foot doctor. Her parents sent her information to the doctor and pleaded with them to just look at her. The doctor called Lorene personally and said he wasn’t sure exactly what he could do but he was willing to try. A week later she had a scheduled surgery, a Fusion—something no one had ever offered Lorene before. It wasn’t a complete fix because they were only doing the right ankle but it meant less pain and Lorene was all for it.
Lorene leaned her head back remembering the pain of growing up with this disease. She just had a third surgery, finally getting better. The scars on the left foot crisscrossing reminding her that she would need another surgery in the future but for now she felt better than she could remember. The right scar was a long diagonal line from the top of her foot running under her ankle. The scars were reminders of her physical pain and the bullying that caused scars deeper than just her skin.
At twenty-six years old she struggled with self-confidence, very few friends, along with trust issues. But everyone struggled with issues, it was normal—something she had wanted for a long time. Looking back over the past sixteen years, she realized that although she hated her scars they represented perseverance. If she could survive sixteen years, life could only get better. She defeated her wheelchair future. People always told her scars are like tattoos but have better stories. She hoped one day her scars could help someone else.
Scars will always be there to remind us where we have been and what mountains we have traveled across. Those struggles we thought we couldn’t get through have made us stronger. Lorene may hate her feet because of the look of the scars but she had an empty wheelchair, a great testimony to others going through similar troubles. It might not be a foot disease but she could say no matter how rough life gets it can only get better. You might not understand why you are going through the situation but it can always help someone else.