What Dylan's Birthmark Taught Him About Life

By Susan Ford Collins

By age seven, Dylan had had eleven laser surgeries. He was born with a huge birthmark that, if left untreated, would grow into a raised purple blemish covering his neck and cheek like a man’s beard. One month after birth, Dylan had his first laser treatment, not by choice of course, but because his parents knew the torment their son would endure throughout his life otherwise.

Every surgery was like preliving his untreated future. Hours afterward the whole area was swollen and purple. For weeks, whenever his mother took Dylan to a mall or out in a stroller, people stared not just at him but at her, wondering.

After eleven treatments, Dylan’s birthmark appeared to be gone except for a barely noticeable patch, but the doctors said it would expand and darken as he grew. This time Dylan chose to have surgery himself, a doubly-hard decision because now Dylan knew how painful past procedures had been. But like a brave little soldier he told his Mom, “Please schedule another laser surgery for me.”

This treatment was a group effort. His father, a doctor, visited Dylan’s school to explain the procedure to his teachers and classmates and prepare them for what Dylan would look like for the next few weeks. His mother showed Dylan photos of his shrinking birthmark and helped him visualize it shrinking again, or even disappearing. The night before, Dylan was anxious. No, he hadn’t changed his mind, but memories of that laser striking his tender skin, of burning, bruising and swelling, of people staring kept rushing in.

The next morning in the operating room Dylan held his arm still as the anesthesiologist inserted the needle to put him to sleep. Even though Dylan woke from the anesthesia fighting and screaming, even though he dreaded having his mother apply the prescribed cream to his tender face, even though players on a visiting team called Dylan “a grape head” his first day back on the soccer field, Dylan sailed through the healing process knowing, “I wanted to do that and I did. And I can do that or something even harder again if I have to... as long as I continue to hold my outcome."

Dylan’s birthmark had brought a blessing. He’d learned a Success Skill that would assist him whenever he sat down to do homework, whenever his team was behind on the soccer field, whenever he had to buckle down to do the hard work needed to succeed in business school and life.

(c) Susan Ford Collins. Contact me for permission to use it.

* For more on the 7th Success Skill, how to stay on course to your desired outcomes, read The Joy of Success: 10 Essential Skills for Getting the Success You Want.

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