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WRITE TEAM: Celebrate uniqueness

Hemangioma.

I couldn’t even pronounce the word, let alone know what it meant, until our son told us that the doctors thought his newborn daughter had one.

A hemangioma is a type of birthmark, a benign tumor of blood vessels. Sixty percent occur on the head or neck and are three times more likely to occur in females. Most show up as a faint spot a few days after birth and grow rapidly and turn redder. They grow for six to 12 months and then begin involution, or shrinking. The shrinkage can take months or years.

Also known as Stork Bite, Strawberry, or Port Wine Stain, hemangiomas are different from vascular birthmarks which are present at birth and do not get smaller.

If the hemangioma is near the eyelid, nose, lips, or interferes with breathing, treatments will be started to prevent serious complications. Additional testing will be done to determine if there are also internal hemangiomas which can be very dangerous.

Ophthalmologists will check and watch any hemangioma near the eye; glaucoma may occur if the pressure on the eye is not controlled.

Beta Blockers such as Propranolol have been found to be very effective with controlling and reducing the hemangioma but must be dispensed and monitored carefully. Additionally, pediatric dermatologists can advise parents and guide decisions concerning the possibility of laser removal of the birthmark.

Unless infected, most birthmarks do not cause physical pain and many require little or no treatment. If a series of laser treatments is required to gradually reduce/remove the birthmark, the area may be sore for a few days.

Sadly, it’s a different kind of pain that children with birthmarks often deal with; that which comes from being teased or mocked, especially if the mark is visible on a child’s face.

Today, May 15, is Birthmark Awareness Day.

I read and learned all I could about hemangiomas and birthmarks after Evelyn’s diagnosis. The hemangioma on her face is very near her eyelid, sweeping onto her cheek and necessitated a hospital stay so doctors could run tests and figure out a plan.

Our sweet little Evie is doing fine; she takes a beta blocker three times a day which has reduced the swelling around her eye. She sees an ophthalmologist and pediatric dermatologist regularly. We are fortunate that she has had no complications. What the future holds for her regarding further treatments, time will tell.

She is a happy, healthy, normal baby who is thriving and meeting all milestones, bringing joy and love to the family. I applaud her parents who have been diligent with her condition, finding the best medical answers.

I pray that she becomes a strong, confident child, comfortable with herself, proud of who she is. What we look like should not define us, but we know that “different” can be seen in a negative light. We must move beyond superficial judgments to love and embrace our individualities. The more we learn, the more accepting we become.

It’s not just birthmarks. There are many ways that we look “different.” Let’s celebrate our uniqueness and encourage each other with positive support until our inner light is what we truly see.

Because genuine beauty is easy to recognize if we just know how to look.

KAREN ROTH is a semi-retired librarian/educator living in Ottawa.

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