In this week's episode of This Is the Gospel, Wendy shares that she was always painfully aware that she looked different. At just 2 months old, she developed a blood tumor, or hemangioma, on her forehead. After enduring constant bullying her entire childhood, Wendy was able to have the tumor removed when she was 10 years old. But the damage done by others' cruel words and actions had Wendy questioning her worth until she began a lifelong process that helped her understand how God saw her.
So when I was a toddler, I was at the grocery store with my mom, and she was going down the aisles and a woman with a bunch of teenagers came up and pointed at me and said, "Hey, look kids, that kid doesn't need a Halloween costume. She's already got one." And then they all laughed and walked off. And my mom was so shocked. She didn't know what to say.
When I was about 2 months old, I had a little red dot that was right center of my forehead and it started spreading out, and it was a hemangioma, which is a blood tumor. A hemangioma—it's got lots of blood vessels in it. You can't take it off because there's too much blood [and] things going on in the head. And it was coming out like a golf ball off the top of my head. It's kind of purple and red. They usually will deflate a little bit when the child is older, more like 9 or 10. Until then, you just have to live with it.
So I knew I looked different. My mom was always trying to comb my bangs so that they would cover my forehead. I always had bangs right to my eyebrows, but I was an active kid. So [I'd] run around, [and] the bangs would split. So no matter what we did, it was always showing, and then I would forget that I had it and then run into a new person that didn't know me. And they would stop and stare and look at me, and if it was a kid—well, even sometimes adults—then that's when I would get teased for it.
When I was in preschool, I was going to a religious school and the teacher told the class that I had the mark of the devil, and that they shouldn't associate with me because they might be infected by my badness—just because of how I look. So I came home and asked my mom, "How come I have the mark of the devil?" And my mom pulled me from the school—because she's a good mom—and then we had to go find somewhere else for me to go after that.
So my mom and dad both were very protective of me. And they were trying to be the buffer between me and the world. One time, I had told [my dad] that I was being bullied and pushed around on the way home from school, and so he waited for me on the porch. And he saw these kids following me home from school, and they were pushing me into the street and pushing me down.
And so he came out and told them, "You don't have to be her friend. But you do have to be kind to her, and you cannot put her in danger." And so he was a protector for me. And right after that, he went to the school and asked them to have a meeting with all of the kids anywhere near my grade. And he talked to them all about what a hemangioma was, and [he told them] that [I] was a pretty neat kid. If they'd give [me] a chance, [we] could be friends.
So when I was about 9, the hemangioma started to deflate. It slowly lost the big redness of having all the active blood vessels, and we were able to go and have it removed. I remember in the hospital, my mom was reading me A Wrinkle in Time as we were getting ready to go back for the surgery. And my mom doesn't even like reading fantasy books, but she would read me anything that I would listen to.
When I came out and had it off, then I traded the hemangioma for a scar. The scar, for a long time, was really, really bright. So if I was angry or exercising or anything, then it was almost as glaring as the hemangioma was to start with. And at first, I always had bangs because I was still trying to cover this scar in this place where I used to have this thing that I felt was shameful.
Having been someone who was told that I had the mark of the devil, it often made me wonder what my worth was. I often felt like there were two faces, because there was this face that the world would see, and then there was the real person inside that didn't have value. Because if I was somebody of worth, then why did I have things like this happen? Why were people cruel?
Make sure to check out these books by Wendy Swore:
Sophie is a monster expert. Thanks to her Big Book of Monsters and her vivid imagination, Sophie can identify the monsters in her school and neighborhood. Clearly, the bullies are trolls and goblins. Her nice neighbor must be a good witch, and Sophie's new best friend is obviously a fairy. But what about Sophie? She's convinced she is definitely a monster because of the "monster mark" on her face. At least, that's what she calls it. The doctors call it a blood tumor. Sophie tries to hide it, but it covers almost half her face. And if she's a monster on the outside, then she must be a monster on the inside too.
Paige's favorite family tradition on the farm is the annual bonfire where everyone tosses in a stone and makes a wish. This time, Paige's specific wish is one she's not sure can come ture: Don't let Mom and Grandpa sell the farm.
When Paige's younger brother finds a wounded peacock in the barn, Paige is sure it's a sign that if she can keep the bird safe, she'll keep the farm safe too. Peacocks, after all, are known to be fierce protectors of territory and family.