Born with a benign tumor (or “hemangioma”) on my left cheek, I attracted a great amount of uncomfortable attention. This attention influenced the way in which I saw myself. I often felt that my blemish prevented me from being what society considered “beautiful.”
As a girl entering her teenage years, I could not help but worry about the ways I would be viewed by others, especially by boys. When I expressed these concerns to my mom, she offered a potential solution that would require no words – a stern stare back would do the trick. I would simply be giving others a taste of their own medicine. While my voice was hushed in hopes of diverting attention away, it quickly became apparent that even this solution would not work. My work illustrates this struggle and my resulting frustration as I felt that I had no control over how people looked at me. On the contrary, it began to feel like others had more control than I did over how I perceived myself.
My comic was inspired by Miriam Engelberg’s graphic narrative, Cancer Made Me a Shallower Person, in hopes of showing rather than telling my experience with staring. My piece ends with my unsatisfied self confronting the reality of living with an abnormal mark on my face. It is difficult to change the way society views people who possess different characteristics. Such a societal approach has the power to negatively impact the illness experience of many individuals living with various disabilities, disorders, and diseases. As I matured throughout my experiences, however, I came to learn that a greater triumph can result in the way I react – by not letting the stares of others reflect onto the person I saw in the mirror. With this perspective I became a more confident individual who appreciates the differences that other people possess.
Karolina Mieczkowska is a senior at Boston College majoring in Biochemistry and minoring in Medical Humanities. She plans on pursuing a career in medicine as a physician.