By Lisa Butler
I have a facial port wine stain birthmark – but I hope this and other ‘blogs’ I will write is a way of being able to share my experiences in life so far.
When I think back to when I was much younger, I am so grateful for the support I had from not only my family and friends, but the whole community that we lived in.
When I was about eight years old, laser treatment was just becoming available. The only problem was, the only place for treatment was in Scotland, and we lived in South Wales. It was over six hours drive away from our home. There was so many people involved in making it possible for me to even just start laser treatment.
One of my earliest memories linked to my laser treatment was a fundraising event organised by people in the community, to raise money to help my Mum and Dad with the costs involved in me being able to try the laser treatment. Our local pub was The Quarry, and this was the hub of the fundraising day. I remember a good friend of my parents shaved his head to raise money for me. Also there was a team of people who pushed a car from a starting point back to The Quarry, collecting money in collecting buckets along the way. I remember it being such an amazing day filled with friends and family, smiles and laughter. There were so many people from the community that came together to make it possible for me to try laser treatment. I don’t remember how much money was raised, but it was enough to help my parents take me on the long journey to Scotland.
I have a younger brother and a younger sister. To avoid them missing school or having to make the long journey too, my Nan would come over and stay at our house to look after them for the couple of days we would be away. Not once did my brother or sister complain about this, or say it’s unfair that they had to stay at home while I was away with our parents.
I remember we would always leave home when it was dark. I would get in the car with my pillow and duvet, and we would just drive right through the night. For me the journeys were easy, I would just sleep, but for my parents, it must have been so hard.
We didn’t stay in a hotel along the way, we just drove straight to Scotland with the occasional toilet or food stop. One of my fondest memories of these journeys was when we stopped for breakfast on the way up. We had made a few journeys by this time, so Mum and Dad were getting amazingly good at organising our trips. They had packed some eggs and bacon and also some tin foil trays. We pulled into a service station car park and they put the bacon etc in the foil trays. They then put the foil tray on top of the hot engine. A short time later the food was cooked, piping hot!! We still laugh and reminisce about this over twenty five years later.
Even though I was the one undergoing the laser treatment, I didn’t feel it was my journey alone.
I think it’s only now that I’m an adult with my own children that I understand what a special part everyone played. It feels like a jigsaw puzzle to me, everyone played a huge part in making it possible for me to have laser treatment, which was still pioneering treatment at the time. Without anyone of the elements it may not have been the experience that it was for me. From the amazing generosity of our community and family, to my Nan giving up time to look after my brother and sister, to my brother and sister for never making me feel guilty for taking our parents away from them when they took me for treatment, and my Mum and Dad for listening to what I wanted to do, and moving heaven and earth to make it happen.
When I think back, it just reminds me how lucky I was that my life was filled with such amazing people. I will be forever grateful.