By Kelly Rock
Growing up with an identical twin, you can expect a lot of comparisons to your sibling. But for me and my identical twin sister, Megan, the experience was slightly different. Instead of always hearing, "You guys look so alike," we heard comments like, "Why doesn't Kelly look more like Megan?"
I was born with a rare facial deformity called hypertelorbitism, which basically means I was born with my eyes far apart and a nose that developed differently. Being born with this condition presented me with a lot of challenges growing up. At 19, I have already undergone 10 surgeries at Children's Hospital Boston.
At times, I feel like I grew up in the operating room. I have often wished I could have played outside with my friends instead of being in a hospital bed attached to IVs and wires and drinking all kinds of nasty-tasting medicines to ward off infection. But through it all I knew that the medical attention was best for me. I also knew that my plastic surgeon, John Mulliken, MD, director of Children's Craniofacial Anomalies Program, would do everything in his power to make me look my very best, even if that meant spending 14 hours in surgery.
While my family and medical team at Children's helped me overcome the challenges of hypertelorbitism, I can't say the same for other kids my age who made fun of me on a daily basis because of how I looked. I remember going to camp and having kids laugh and exclude me, or try to make me feel alienated because I looked different. I vividly remember a day in third grade when I tried to play hopscotch with my classmates, but they turned their backs to me and said I couldn't play with them.
While their cruelty hurt, it never changed the way I thought about myself. It never occurred to me to feel sorry for myself or question why I had been born with this condition instead of my sister. If anything, I questioned why people would bully someone because of how they looked, especially when they had no control over it.
Dealing with bullies was hard, but even if I could, I wouldn't change anything about my childhood. Growing up with hypertelorbitism, and all the life lessons associated with it, has made me a stronger person. Without those experiences I wouldn't be who I am today: a sophomore in college with a steady job. I'm a normal teenage girl who likes to shop, drive and hang out with friends every chance I get. I know it sounds cliché, but my life thus far has really made me realize that who a person is on the inside matters far more than her appearance.
Funny thing is, I've known this since I was very young, but some people go their entire lives without ever realizing it—and try to make others feel badly in the process. To me, that way of thinking and acting is the real deformity.