Is it better not to know?

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During the week I had to take my eleven year old daughter to see a dermatologist. She has  been left with a mark on her leg after receiving her routine vaccinations as a toddler and as the mark had changed colour and doubled in size our family doctor recommended that we get it checked out.

I’m not going to lie and say I never gave it a thought until the day  her appointment arrived because I have given this particular blemish on her otherwise blemish free body a lot of thought in the past nine to ten years. The fact that we were seeing the specialist the Monday after seeing our own GP also added to my concern.

It was with great trepidation that I entered the dermatologist’s office on Monday last and his line of questioning did not make me  less anxious. I was almost going to suggest sending my daughter out of the room until we finished talking about the members of my family who have been unfortunate enough to be visited by skin disease and not live to tell the tale.

Eventually he got round to looking at the mark on my little ones leg. He went to great lengths to explain exactly what he thought it was not, showing us some pretty gruesome looking pictures to aid our understanding. My little woman was beginning to look quite pale and distant at this stage.

The doctor was really patient and extremely kind in his treatment of my little one and went to great lengths to assure us that what was on her leg was nothing to worry about. However, as with all skin abnormalities it will have to be checked on a yearly basis and monitored regularly for any sign of change.

This particular man was so interested in his field of work that he brought out book after book to show us what he thought might have caused the mark and to reassure us that it most definitely was nothing sinister. In his quest to find the right picture to show he came across a picture of a haemangioma and my interest was piqued.

I was born with a birthmark covering my back. I wasn’t aware of this fact until we underwent a medical examination in school when I was in senior infants or first class. The hall was large, cold and drafty. We had to stand in line in our underwear. My turn arrived and my vest was raised to place the stethoscope on my back to hear my breathing. I waited for the coldness of the stethoscope on my back but never felt it. Instead I heard the doctor gasp and in a hurried voice call the nurse over.

I was asked what happened my back to which I replied; ‘that’s where I got burned by hot grease as a baby’. The examination ended and Mammy Byrne was summoned.

The doctor and nurse had thought that I had received a beating. My birthmark was like a bunch of varicose veins that covered my back from shoulder to bum. Obviously these medical professionals had never seen anything quite like it before but I’m sure they had seen bruising which would have looked quite different.

I was oblivious to all the trouble I had caused. Unaware that my back was covered in a bundle of veins that became more pronounced when I was left in the cold, I had told the doctor that I had been scalded by grease as a toddler. Which I had. I had pulled hot grease down on myself and was extremely lucky that a quick thinking neighbour had held me under the cold tap. Only for her I would have been scarred for life.

I knew about this major mishap because I had a scar on my arm and that’s what I thought the doctor was referring to when she had looked at my back. I was only six or seven after all. Mammy Byrne wasn’t slow in telling the doctor exactly what was wrong with my back. She wasn’t behind the door in letting the ladies know that they had jumped to conclusions before properly assessing the situation.

On hearing that I had a vascular haemangioma the lovely doctor asked if I wouldn’t mind him having a quick look. Sure why not, I thought! And am I glad I did. I can now say that my haemangioma is possibly the largest that this man has ever seen. However, all joking aside, he has explained that the tiredness and lethargy that I feel is connected to the blood supply that is required by a birthmark of its size.

Sometimes we learn things by accident. I learned that I had a birthmark on my back by accident when I was six or seven. Through my childhood I have had different treatments to try to shrink a birthmark that I knew relatively little about. I have had constant pain in the general area of this birth defect on and off all through my adult life which no one can explain.  I was refused an epidural when I was having a C-section for the birth of my second child because of my birthmark yet no one could really explain why.

My birthmark has left many a doctor speechless and unable to tell me what it is or how it could impact on my daily life. Until Monday that is, when we paid a visit to a very non assuming gentleman who happened to be a mine of information.

I know my mum kept the fact that I had a huge anomaly on my back from me because she was protecting me. Yet sometimes it’s better to know.


The Author

I'm living on the Leitrim border with my lovely husband and two terrific kids. It's the little piece of heaven that I dreamed of growing up. I work in Adult Education by day and during my free time I read, write, knit, plant and bake not always in that order. I blog about life, love, family and everything in between. Pull up a chair and have a browse while you're here. All the best, Karen


  1. laura says

    Another well written blog Karen,thus an educational one for me too,you are unique and special person,I mean that in the nicest possible way..I think we all have uniqueness some we can see and others we can’t it makes us who we are …


    • Thanks Laura, I agree with you wholeheartedly. We all have a uniqueness that isn’t always visible but shape us and make us the people we are today


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