When I was born I could barely breathe. A fast-growing tumor, called a teratoma, was interfering with my wind pipe, and I was rushed off for an immediate tracheostomy. The eventual complete removal of the teratoma permanently altered the left side of my face, leaving me with misaligned jaws, hearing loss and paralysis.
All my life I’ve been stared at, mocked, ridiculed and avoided. But I’ve also been loved and protected by caring parents and my two older siblings. My dynamic personality earned me friends and admirers, but few romances. However, I firmly believed that I could be loved; that the right type of man would be able to see beyond the face and love me for who I am.
During the often frustrating search for such a man, I became so desperate and lonely that I allowed myself to become codependent to a drug addict. This emotionally abusive relationship taught me a lot about myself and about human nature. Though I did not partake in the drugs myself, I learned first hand the challenges of breaking out of what is so obviously a destructive situation, offering me insight and compassion for those still ensnarled. Within a year after breaking free, I met Ian Shaw, the man I eventually married and who is still my best friend today.
I started writing stories and plays in grade school, and with a goal of becoming a Hollywood scriptwriter I earned Bachelor’s Degrees in Visual Communications and Theater. I never quite made it to Hollywood, but I did spend twelve years in video production primarily as an editor. I also put my writing talents to use, winning a contract and writing a play on the properties of light for a Public Utilities District here in Washington.
In the meantime, I fulfilled my childhood dream of owning a horse. I bought an Icelandic gelding and was on top of the world. However, he was totally unsuited to my abilities at the time. After a few scary and painful incidents, I lost my confidence and faced tremendous fear issues involving riding. However, instead of giving up, I chose instead to educate myself and improve my skills and abilities. It took three years and a lot of excellent teachers and horses to get my confidence back. When my contract expired for my editing work, I turned this education into a profession. I now manage my own small Icelandic horse farm, Lone Cedar Icelandic Horses, where I raise, breed and train Icelandic horses.
I’ve also discovered a whole new world of independent music. “Indie” bands are producing quality music and touring the country without the backing of a major record label. I’ve taken to a number of these bands and artists which I support by attending their shows, buying their music and promoting them to my friends and acquaintances through social media. In the case of my favorite band, Carbon Leaf, my husband Ian and I will sometimes travel and follow them for a number of shows, volunteering to work in the band’s merchandise booth. My involvement with music inspired me at age 44 to start playing the mandolin.
In 2005, I was encouraged to turn my personal story into a book, and after long years of struggling with this effort, it has finally come to fruition.
Facing Up To It outlines my journey.
Growing up not looking quite “normal” changes the way the world looks at me, which in turn affects my view of the world. It is a story of emotional struggle and ultimately of acceptance, in which I figure out how to turn a liability into an asset. Most importantly, I don’t let what some would consider a deformity stop me from living.