Saturday, September 16, 2017

Family Spotlight: Rasheera Dopson

Hi there! My name is Rasheera, I am 26 years old and I have Goldenhar Syndrome. I currently live in Atlanta, Georgia. I grew up in the suburbs outside San Francisco with my Mom, Michelle, and two older siblings Rachelle and Rashaun. I am the baby of the family. 

During the past year, I have had to deal with unforeseen medical problems. What started out as a toothache ended up being a six month medical journey. I found myself at the end of this journey laying on the operation table getting five of my teeth removed.  It was a pretty intense experience. Nevertheless, over the course of this medical scare I learned two very important life lessons. 

First, I learned that no matter what, no matter how sick you are family is EVERYTHING! It was hard to ask for help because I am an independent, single person. When I got sick I had to rely on my family to help. The pain from my mouth was so crippling I was forced to take time off from work and seek medical treatment. Ultimately, I had to leave behind my job, my friends, and my daily routine to move back to California to live with my mom. In California, I was able to get the care I needed for my teeth and jaw. This was not an easy process, but it was most definitely necessary. I knew if I wanted to get better that I would have to sacrifice my own independence for better medical care.

My family stepped in during one of the most vulnerable moments of my life. I would expect nothing less than them. The sacrifices they made on my behalf showed just how important having a support system is. I really appreciate everything they did for me. My mom and sister trekked back and forth from doctors' offices and appointments when I was too weak to drive. I was very grateful.

 Although I dearly missed my close friends in Georgia, I relished the time spent at home with family. In the midst of my medical crisis, our family grew closer. Often, we took my visits home for granted.  This year we were all grateful to be around one another even if it was not under the best circumstances. I truly love my family. I am so grateful for their continued support.

The second lesson I learned was on inner strength. The time that I spent at home was very uncertain. I was not quite sure on what to expect from day to day. Up until this year, I was relatively healthy.  My last surgery was nine years ago. After I started college, I did my best to live a normal life. I tried to put sickness and Goldenhar syndrome behind me. Nevertheless, I learned that that was not possible because my syndrome would always be a part of my life.  

When I found out my teeth were falling apart and my jaw bone had weakened, I felt like a failure.  I somehow blamed the fracturing of my teeth on myself rather than my condition. However, I quickly came to realize that there were some parts of my syndrome that I would not be able to control. The only thing I could do was accepted what was happening to my body and do my best to move on. Through acceptance I found my inner strength. I embraced my syndrome in new way: no longer would I be ashamed of being born with Goldenhar Syndrome. Instead, my facial difference was something to accept and proudly show the world.

Even though I am better now and no longer in pain or dealing with an infection, this process was not easy, but it was worth it because I learned these two vital life lessons. There is a big difference between living with a craniofacial condition as a child versus as an adult. There is far more to process and handle, like uncertainty, insurance, booking medical appointments, and other stuff that my mom used to handle. There is also so much more to learn as an adult because so much more of the world is revealed to us. I would not change anything about this year.  I am stronger now, healthier, display more compassion, and have even greater self awareness and self-assurance of my place in the craniofacial community.  I know that in everything I go through in my personal and medical life that my family will always be by my side.  Finally, I know I can always rely on my inner strength, self acceptance, and the strength of my faith in God, to make it through.

Editor's Note: Follow Rasheera's journey on her website, Beauty With A Twist, where she writes about Goldenhar Syndrome, living a spiritual life, and more! 

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