For me, the Vitiligo itself has not been as emotionally draining, as having to watch your beautiful child doubt herself while enduring the stares of strangers. When my Sydney was born, there was no indication or hint of what was to come; there was absolutely no sign of Vitiligo. She didn’t start exhibiting the “spots” as she calls them until she was about 3 years old.
Out of concern, I took her to the doctor, and she was later diagnosed with the progressive skin discoloration disorder, Vitiligo. I didn’t want to alarm her, so in the beginning, only immediate family knew. For Sydney and her sisters, she was just a normal girl that did normal things. Her world changed when she started school. When Sydney started school, her “spots” became more pronounced, and she started realizing that her skin was different from the other students and her sisters as well.
It was during this time that she first started doubting herself. I went to her dermatologist, who agreed to speak with the class, which helped tremendously. As she grew, most her friends grew with her, and in a short time, those children that knew her, became unaware of her increasing “spots.” Even when a few new students would arrive, Sydney’s friends were on hand to answer questions, and would even address any issues before Sydney even knew about it. During Hurricane Katrina, my Sydney’s world collapsed. During this time, many new students came to our school, and they had questions about Sydney’s “spots”…lots of questions.
Sydney cracked under all of the questions and attention. She began crying daily and with every tear, a piece of my heart broke. Because she had “spots” on her face and on the back of her neck, she felt that she had “spots” coming and going. It was a very emotionally draining period for all of us. Sydney soon decided that she wanted to take a break from public school and we settled on homeschooling. We homeschooled for two years and in that time, Sydney focused on what was good about Sydney. Within the homeschool community, she found acceptance, and eventually, SHE made the decision to return to the public school setting.
Sydney has returned to public school and is contemplating trying out for cheerleading. She will occasionally comment that a child is looking at her, but unlike before, her world does not crash. She has learned how to handle uncomfortable questions, and has decided that her “spots” are other people’s problems not hers. Throughout this period, she has kept a journal and is now considering turning it into a short story.
To me, Sydney is a courageous, strong, and humble young lady, and I am so proud of how she has handled what she has had to endure in her short life.
Roxanne, Sydney’s Mother