Name: Bethan Elizabeth Evans
Favourite things: Warm hugs, rolling hills, and tiramisu
Thing that makes me most particularly interesting: My shining wit obviously and what is technically called my ‘facial disfigurement’ – not that I see it that way.
I have a port wine stain birthmark which covers the right side of my face, going right back to my hair line and over my eye lid. It’s purple pink and I was born with it; it’s so normal to me I hardly know how to describe it. Technically, for all you medics out there, a port wine stain is a vascular birthmark, where abnormal blood vessels are permanently dilated and therefore show up red on someone’s skin permanently.
I often wonder how many people who look at me actually know what it is. Because I’m not aware of it when I talk to people, being so worried about those normal things like ‘is there something in my teeth?’ or ‘this has got to be the worst hair day of my life’, I’m not thinking about people’s reaction to it. Strangers however, people I walk past in the street, people to whom I am just a face, tend to make me aware of it. They are often intrigued, taking a moment (or several moments) to glare, and they are sometimes rude.
People stare at me lot, in fact, and, if I was dressed like Cinders at the ball every day I probably wouldn’t mind, because a lot of people like attention when they’ve got their mojo on. But most days I’m just me, some days I’m fed up, and it’s mostly those days when I notice. I’m not complaining, and very few people say anything downright rude and even then they often don’t realise that they’re being offensive.
At the moment I’m studying in Italy and I find the people here are a little less, hmmm subtle, in this area of social conduct. Women in toilets run up to me and exclaim ‘c’è stato incidente?!’, well one, but still. Personally I think being one of the 3 out of 1,000 people born with a port wine stain is pretty cool.
People who want to be successful or special in life often want to be different from everyone else, many people strive for things that make them stand out. Some have crazy piercings, some people wear meat suits (Lady Gaga – I’m looking at you), others shave just that tiny bit off the side of their heads, but I win again. I have no need to change because thanks to my face I’m already a walking talking bit of special.
Let’s talk about confidence. I am definitely affected by it, but I could never say that having a birthmark has had a negative impact on my life. Maybe it was my confidence, the support of my parents or the small village school I went to but I have never really been bullied about it, and very few strangers have ever approached me, and those that do rarely mean any harm. Sometimes the staring gets a bit much, but I’ve got a whole 20 years experience of returning the death stare, and I tend to see the funny side of it.
I started having laser treatment when I was 12 months old, and when I was about seven I was fortunate enough to be transferred to Great Ormond Street Hospital; one of the finest children’s hospitals in the world. Laser treatment pain wise is the equivalent of being flicked sharply in the face repeatedly. In reality it’s a pulsed dye laser treatment in which the redness in the blood vessels is absorbed by beams of light in a series of small pulses or dots which initially cause bruising but lighten the birthmark.
The majority of my treatments were under general anaesthetic and involved taking several days off school as I let my face, which looked like I’d be in fight with a biro, calm down and go from its bruised dark purple state to pink once more. It was at these times, especially when treatment was around my eye that my confidence would be low, and looking in the mirror was hard.
Still, I felt quite forlorn when I was discharged from the GOSH at 18, I felt like I didn’t belong to that special place anymore, that support link, it was the first time when I felt like an adult. Of course I could have transferred to a new hospital for further treatment, but I didn’t want to, I was and still am comfortable and happy with my port wine stain and don’t want to change it anymore.
Just a side note; isn’t it a cool name? There is a brown birthmark called Café au Lait.
Would I choose to be born without it? Never, I can’t imagine myself without it. It doesn’t define me but it is an essential part of me. One thing I would change would be people’s awareness of and about it. For myself and anyone with any kind of birthmark it would make life easier if people knew what it was, rather than thinking for example that myself or others had been in a terrible accident or burned etc.
I could wear makeup to cover it up and I could and may have further treatment, but I don’t want to hide who I am. Just like everyone I hide my insecurities on a daily basis, so why hide something I’m actually confident about.
Bethan likes warm hugs, rolling hills, and tiramisu. She’s a country bumpkin at heart whose currently swanning around Italy supposedly studying, but you’ll usually find her in Edinburgh sipping a brew from a vintage tea cup whilst accidentally polishing off an entire packet of biscuits.
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