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Challenge: Rise!

A letter to my daughter about magic

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Magic has a name. It’s Vitiligo. It happened to me when I was 12, the first spots appearing on my face. Over time, the spots spread, like wildfire at times.

Today, my body is more vitiligo than not. Vitiligo is an autoimmune disease, one that targets healthy skin cells because they are mistaken for unhealthy ones. My body is fighting itself, and it’s a battle that has affected me wholly since the beginning.

You see, when I was younger, I looked in the mirror and saw imperfection. I didn’t see my beautiful brown eyes, my long, thick hair. I couldn’t see the huge, bright smile that I now realize is one of my best features.

When people looked at me, I thought they saw disease, not beauty. I didn’t see the kindness behind my eyes, couldn’t see the joy behind my smile. I saw big ugly spots, like tattoos that announced to the world that I was broken. I would try to forget, but would be reminded when someone innocently asked.

Instead of taking the opportunity to educate, to engage, I shied away. Yes, there were times when my vitiligo faded, and these periods helped me restore some shred of self-confidence. But underneath it all, the disease controlled me.

I sought treatment. For years I used steroid creams, did UV treatments, covered myself with makeup, and avoided the sun, which only highlighted the spots. I became skilled at hiding how broken I felt.

And then...I had you.

My beautiful, perfect, healthy twin girls. Suddenly life changed. Of course my autoimmune diseases continued to have an impact on my life. In fact, motherhood triggered a wrath of destruction on my body. But, because of you, I wouldn’t - couldn’t - let the diseases control me. When I cuddled you and your sister each night, and looked deep into your unguarded eyes, I thanked God for you…for perfection.

When you began speaking and asked me why my skin looked different, as most young children do, I told you it was magic, even though I didn’t believe it myself. I wanted to teach you that it was important to look beyond the outside, even though I couldn’t. I wanted to show you how to be strong, because inside, I wasn’t.

I told you how special I was, even though I wasn’t sure it was true, to have magical skin that changed color. And you looked at me, with those big hazel eyes, in awe. Your mommy was magic. You loved to rub at my spots, and I used to think it was because you wanted to know what magic felt like.

And then it happened. Slowly at first, but then, we knew. You’re just like me, in so many ways, so how couldn’t I have seen it coming? The disease came for you. Just like me, it started on your eye. Only this time, something was different.

You’ve always spoken of my skin the way I taught you - it’s magic. You’ve continuously told me how beautiful I am and how unique I am…how you hope to be just like me. And you know what? You were right. You taught me to look in the mirror and see magic. Beauty. Perfect imperfection.

Today I look at you, wearing the same disease that I have, but wearing it so differently. You have so much strength behind your beauty. Every now and again, I catch a glimpse of question in your eyes. “Am I beautiful?” When I see it, I am there to remind you. Yes, you are more beautiful than you know. At only 10 years old, you hold so much wisdom, power, and strength.

You are kind, caring, and ever so smart. You are stubborn, creative, and have the voice of an angel. You wear this disease as a badge of honor, not a curse. YOU are magic, both inside and out. Thank you for teaching me how to be strong. Thank you for reminding me that I am beautiful, that my imperfections make me unique. Thank you for being my warrior.

I hope that as you grow, when life gets difficult, you will remember how much courage you possess, and what impact you have already had on the world.

In my almost 37 years, this is the first picture I have ever taken without covering my spots. I am exposed, for the first time, and instead of feeling scared, I feel strong. Because of you, when I look at this picture, I ONLY see beauty.

Of course, I can’t help but think of loss, for all of the time I hid from the world. But what shines brightest in my smile is hope, courage, acceptance.

I am so proud to be your momma, but more importantly, I am proud to be me.

And that, my sweet girl, is the magic of it all.

*A very heartfelt thank you to Danielle Aube for helping me bring this project to life.

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