It's 2018...already! 2017 feels like it's flown by in a rollercoaster of monumental highlights. Here are my best bits:
My Cleft Treatment
2017 marked some pretty major steps along my cleft journey. In April, I had my train tracks (braces) taken off after 4 long years. I had my septorhinoplasty (nose surgery) after over a decade of consciously waiting for it. This repaired my collapsed nasal passage and deformed nasal bone - I am delighted with the result! I had my reconstructive lip surgery in September (watch this space for the full article coming soon!). And I had a massive change in my self-confidence and self-esteem levels.
Beth's Cleft Lip and Palate
Unusually for me (if you can believe it!), I am often totally lost for words when I consider the success of Beth's Cleft Lip and Palate. When I started writing back in April 2017, it was a small word document where I wanted to understand my massive psychological change after my septorhinoplasty (nose surgery). I started writing some of my experiences (the good and the bad),and, once I'd started, I felt like I couldn't stop. By the beginning of May, I decided I was ready to share my story with the world. I thought that if my experiences could reach one person one day (or one afternoon even) and provide some sort of comfort or reassurance, to make something seem less scary or to know it will all work out, or maybe even to inspire a smile, it would be worth it. So, 6 months of hard work and over 19,000 words later, on World Smile Day (6th October 2017), I was ready to launch my website.
To be totally honest, never in my wildest dreams would I have believed that the response I've had was possible. If you had told me this time last year that I would have shared my entire cleft journey with everyone I've ever known, including pictures of when I was born (pre-ops), I would have thought you'd had too much mulled wine! Becoming part of the cleft community and receiving so much support has been one of the most incredible experiences of my life. Both online and offline, the response has been incredible.
I've had cleft organisations from around the world (even as far as New Zealand!) get in touch to praise my site and share it with their followers, I've been asked to write for another cleft-supporting website, and have had my first guest blogger (which is something I hope to do a lot more of in 2018!). I've had old teachers commend my writing, fellow students go out of their way to say how impressive they think the site is and many family members and close friends express their delight that I've finally been able to share my journey and my 'true' self.
Almost as good as my internal feelings of self-acceptance and self-love that I've gained this year (which have been increased ten-fold after launching my site) is the reaction from those affected by cleft lip and palate who have reached out personally. I've had friends refer family members (either affected or with children affected) to the site, personal messages from parents commending my confidence and bravery, not to mention direct messages from teenagers going through the same treatment I've been through.
It has been fantastic.
Absolutely out of this world...
Hopes for the New Year
I'm now past the most major hurdles in my cleft treatment. My final step is to have a bridge put in place for my permanent false tooth, which I hope to have done by February.
As for Beth's Cleft Lip and Palate, I hope to keep reaching those who want to read my story and who might find it helpful. With the continued support of everyone who's connected in the last 3 months, I hope to continue meeting members of the cleft community and those dedicated to empowering patients, promoting self-love and those who want to support those undergoing long term, psychologically-intensive treatment.
My resolutions are to stay self-confident, stay self-loving and to keep empowering others, no matter what they are going through.
Happy New Year!