This I Believe

Brian - Wichita, Kansas
Entered on November 12, 2006
Age Group: Under 18
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A Blessing, Not a Defect

Leopard Boy, Spot, and Mascara Boy; believe it or not, these are all names that have been associated with me over the years. Sure they bothered me for a while, but I have learned to live with them, because to me it’s a blessing, not a defect.

Over the first five or six years I had developed a small blondish looking spot on the back of my neck. At six years old, a dermatologist diagnosed me with vitiligo, a skin irregularity that causes spontaneous loss of pigment in the skin, resulting in a pale, almost paper white area on the body. However this occurrence is no limited to my neck. Since then the disease has rapidly spread to my legs, arms, face, chest and various other body parts.

At first glance this may seem like a harmless disfiguration that poses no harm at all, well looks can be very deceiving. The pigment loss results in areas that are very sensitive to UV rays. Simply put, I sunburn very easily. Sure millions of people sunburn every year, but with enough radiation in one area, it can result in skin cancer. Therein lies my downfall, I stand a very high risk of getting skin cancer, not to mention that just a sunburn is bad enough, ouch.

To prevent this from happening I have to take certain pre-cautions that normal people aren’t required to do. For one I am required to use sunscreen if I am outside in the sun for more than 30 minutes. Also I very rarely get the opportunity to wear a regular ball cap. Instead I need to wear bucket hat or something with a neck flap for the extra protection. These are only minor inconveniences that I have learned to live with, but the ridicule is still something that shakes my foundation.

The embarrassment began around 3rd grade. On the way home on the bus, one kid pointed out that I had spots just like a leopard. Another boy noted that it looked like I was wearing mascara; this is because when the vitiligo appeared around my eyes, it was purple instead of white. After years of this, I eventually learned to filter it out, but now and then somebody still makes a smart remark and gets their laugh out of it.

But as many enemies as I have made, I have made many more friends. Just an innocent and concerned question, “What happened to your neck?” began so many friendships. I always focus more on the positives more than the negatives, even if there are more disadvantages. This I believe.