I Am A Survivor – I can’t remember how it all started which has its own set of challenges when you have experienced a burn trauma. I can only go by what I was told, as I was a 22-month-old infant when my burn happened.
My mother had four boys and I am the only girl and the youngest in the family. Given the size of our family, I am sure you can imagine we didn’t have a lot of money given all our needs.
So to add to the family income our father had rebuilt an older car to sell. During the time some potential buyers came over to look at the vehicle, my mother put a pot of water on the stove since we did not have a kettle, in order to serve them coffee while they viewed the car.
During this time my brothers and I were all sitting in a row in the living room watching cartoons when my mother went outside with the coffee.
I was told my brother Jono went to the bathroom and I went into the kitchen. It was then the burn trauma unfolded when I climbed up on a big green garbage bag that my Father hadplaced beside the stove earlier that morning to access the top of the stove. Immediately I knocked over the water pot and fell back on the burners and my body was instantly lit on fire.
My brother Jono came out of the bathroom and saw me on fire, and ran to tell my mother and father, thankfully our next-door neighbor was a fire fighter! I was in BC Children’s Hospital, for 2 months and given an assortment of treatments; my mother could only bring herself to tell me of two. Chemical baths and the changing of the bandages that would involve peeling off the dead skin. Naturally it was very difficult for both my parents to see their little daughter have to deal with such painful procedures.
Almost every day of my life I wonder what it would be like if I hadn’t been burned, as I am certain that a majority, if not all, of my trials and obstacles stemmed from being a burn survivor. Regardless of this I am very, very proud to say; I AM a survivor.
All through elementary and high school I was teased and taunted maliciously by classmates, I was very alienated; sometimes I even found that I alienated myself due to the pain caused by others. I dropped out from Grade 10 at the age of 15. You would understand that “Lizard skin” which was an often-used nickname against me did not make me want to attend school!
I started dancing when I was 10-11 years old and that’s when I felt accepted and wanted, within four years I had gone from a beginner to an advanced hip hoper and it felt great! I was always put front and center stage, and am to this day still very passionate about dance, particularly crumping, a very aggressive form of hip hop.
Then my dance teacher left, and that’s when my world really began to crumble as she was my idol, someone who made me feel like I was okay just the way I was and that there was nothing wrong with me.
It is then that I started to notice the teasing really never stopped. There was one dance class where another dancer came to me and chased me around the studio trying to pin me down; she wanted to feel my burns. I quickly dropped out of that dance class to then surround myself with some very bad people due to the internal pain and despair I continued to experience and began using drugs. It felt good to be in this crowd because they all liked the callused and jaded person that I was and I didn’t have to work to be “liked”. When you are in a spiral of negativity everything in your life is affected. I was very closed off or often too open, as I had no understanding of boundaries – ever.
Given what happened to me as a child I never understood the importance of self-esteem and having boundaries so I would let everyone take advantage of me just so I would feel accepted.
In the 8th or 9th grade I had surgery to have my burns removed; they would cut off a piece of my burn and stretch my skin together, then sew it. It was a very painful experience but it paid off. At 17 I sought help, as I was in an abusive relationship and eventually started hypnotherapy, which I believed saved my life.
I eventually left my abusive boyfriend and moved out on my own to find myself and eventually started to understand who I was. After dropping out of school for three years I went back to high school and recently graduated in the Class of 2011 at Centennial in Coquitlam! I have also been clean for 3 years! It feels amazing!
Through my journey I learned to respect every part of myself and accept who I am. I have even grown to love my entire body! You might not always be given the best option in life but to me I was given the best gift of all – a life to live fully!
Realistically I should have died that day, but I didn’t and I’m very thankful for that. Now I have a role to play in supporting and helping others. I am an active participant in The Future Is Mine activities, and very pleased to be a SHARE Representative to inspire others who may be in dark times. I am a survivor!