This Month's Featured Family!
July 2003

Denise, Born 1967
Cleft Lip

I, too, was born with a cleft lip.  It was in 1967.

I had my first surgery at about eight weeks old and my second on January 13, 1978.  The second surgery changed my life.  My scar is not noticable by most, unless someone is a medical professional.

I had a hard time during those first ten years.  The taunting and teasing were horrible.  The ironic thing is I didn't know the horrible term "hare-lip" that people called me was because of the cleft; I thought it was because I had a little hair over my lip.  It was a lesson I learned when I was eight years old.  Thankfully, most people don't use that term anymore, but I had to hear it a few times in college.  A biology professor used it instead of calling it a cleft when talking about birth defects.  When it came time to do a comment sheet at the end of the semester,
I let her have it.  That probably wasn't the right way to handle it, but it was m y coping way.

The second time was when reading the book Tobacco Road.  I know the book was written at a time when that word was said, but it was hard to hear the book discussed and the word used over and over.  Even my Mom used that term once in the past decade, and I lashed out at her.  I felt "how dare you, you're my Mother!"  I hate that word more than my scars.

After the second surgery, my lip on the right side curls under when I smile.  I really don't like having my picture taken still.  One nostril is slightly smaller, but the scar tissue from the first surgery is gone.  My most recent moment when a health professional commented on it was at the dentist office.  The dentist kept lifting my lip and looking it over.  I was about to say something and then he asked what had happened.  I told him and educated him that it is in my chart.  He's no longer my dentist.  I felt humiliated by the way he examined it.

I'm 35 now and it still bothers me.  I wish there had been a support group when I was younger.

Thanks for listening,

Denise Holcomb
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