58 Inches*

These past six months have changed me forever.

Six months ago, I would sit with my mom and cry until I was out of tears and gasping for breath. I cried for many reasons, but one of them–a major one–was the state of my body. It was so incredibly scarred and discolored, and it was all I saw when I looked in the mirror. This ruthless disease was tearing me apart, physically and emotionally.

I would look at people with beautiful, glowing skin and furiously burn with envy. I didn’t think it was fair that I would never look like that. And I was angry because I felt like those people didn’t really appreciate how perfect their skin was.

Some small naïve part of me failed to mentally prepare for the scars that would follow surgery. I was ready to have the terribly diseased areas removed from my body. I was focused on healing, on surviving, on recovering. I didn’t even think about the long, large, deep scars that would be branded onto my body to remind me of what I’d been through…I hadn’t prepared myself for that.

After surgery, I just went numb. The tears completely stopped. I would matter-of-factly state to my mom that no one would ever want to love or marry the jumbled mess I had become. I would break her heart every day with my shattered self-esteem and painful comments. I felt ugly. Hideous. Unlovable. Broken.

Then, somehow, my past crept up on me. I started thinking about my pre-teen/teenage years and how I had managed to gather my strength at that time. Developing early and taking years to grow into my own body ensured that I was an awkward teenager (to say the least). It was during those years that I learned to look into the mirror and see beyond the physical aspects of the face that was staring back at me. I learned to gather my inner beauty and shamelessly wear it on my sleeve. Sure, I was awkward, but I was beautiful and I wanted to share it with everyone.

If twelve-year-old Pooja can live by this frame of thought, then shouldn’t a Pooja who has lived nearly twice as long be able to adopt it as well?

Yeah, I’m scarred–so what? My scars tell my story. They are a celebration of triumph over the horrible struggles I’ve faced. My scars will NOT defeat me. I have more than enough inner beauty to conquer the war I face with my body every morning.

Whenever I see people who are truly beautiful to me, they are beautiful because they harvest their inner beauty and display it, boldly. That beauty comes from honesty–an honesty I’m slowly learning about. These people courageously love themselves enough to be honest with the world and allow everyone to see a bit of who they are.

I strive to be one of these people. So next time you see me, if I look a little different, it’s not because I got a haircut or bought a new outfit–it’s because I’m a more honest version of myself. You’re going to see me.

Of course I’ve had moments when I’ve hated my body. I’ve wanted to scream at the mirror for the reflection it throws back at me. Often, when I’m getting dressed, it takes a few deep breaths (and reassuring nods from my mom) for me to find my strength to face the world, but I always do. And I always will. And I’ll still have moments when I hate my body. But that’s okay, because although I am scarred, I am beautiful. And damn it, I love myself.

*“58 Inches” is the total length of surgical scars on my body.

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20 Responses to 58 Inches*

  1. BeeDuff says:

    This blog proves that you can never really understand the struggles other people are going through. Thanks for sharing your story! I had no idea.

    And whenever self-conscious thoughts start to creep up on you, I hope you know that from an outsider’s point of view, I’ve always thought of you as a beautiful and confident person!

    *PS I’ve tried to post this comment like 3 times so sorry if you get repeats! lol

    • Pam McGraw says:

      I remember the 12 year-old Pooja well. She left a big impression on me although our time was brief. I would never suspicioned any self doubt, maybe tiny moments of self doubt. But, what middle schooler doesn’t have it at some time? My memory brings to mind a very beautiful girl (whose gorgeous hair & smile I envied) who was kind, always smiling, encouraging others, and enjoying life, simply beautiful. She took in the whole experience without wavering. Now, for a speech/drama teacher to notice and fondly remember all this, just says your inner beauty is who you are and all I will ever see, which by the way, is gorgeous. It pains my heart to read of your struggle. But, my hope for you is with each passing day you see more & more of your true beauty and are blessed daily with courage and joy to show everyone the BEAUTIFUL Pooja! Remember, “physical beauty” never lasts, but inner beauty is everlasting. Pooja you are beautiful inside and out!

      • Pooja Parikh says:

        Mrs. McGraw – Your comment brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for reaching out to me and assuring me that you recognized me for who I was at such a young age. The “awkward” years are a blur at times, and the further we get from them the more difficult it is to recall them, but I am blessed to have people like you in my life who remind me of where I’ve been and encourage me for where I’m going. I hope you are doing so well!

    • Pooja Parikh says:

      Brittany – You know, going through all of this has really given me a new appreciation for the difficulties that people face behind closed doors. I appreciate that you’ve seen me that way; it really means a lot to me and it’s entirely mutual.

      Ps. I’ve been reading your blog and loving it!

  2. Leena Jhaveri says:

    Hi pooja. I am ur moms classmate . I met u in India in Mayuri aunty’s son marriage .i did nt know what u were going through . I found u nice and warm. And ws keen to meet u and ur mom but did nt materialised .my hats off to u fr ur self confidence and ur being so brave. U r setting example for teenagers of ur age. Well done. And hpe ur inner and outer beauty lead u greater heights.

    • Pooja Parikh says:

      Leena Aunty, I am so glad I had the opportunity to meet you while we were in India! I appreciate your support, and I know it means a lot to my mom. She has some great friends : )

  3. Lauden hadji says:

    Your personal story brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing something so deep and personal.

    • Pooja Parikh says:

      No, thank you for taking the time to read my story. I cannot tell you how much it means to me to know that people are reading it.

  4. Kris Smtih says:

    Girlfriend… you are BEAUTIFUL, in every single way a person can be beautiful. I don’t know what in the world I could have done for God to think that I am deserving of a friend like you, but I thank Him every day, as you are one of the sweetest blessings in my life. I’ve always admired your ability to be open and honest with people, and to me, it’s the most beautiful thing about you. Don’t lose it. Healing always takes more time than anyone hopes for because it’s not just the physical side that needs it. You’ve been through a lot on this journey, and the fact that you continue to be so open about it continues to show me just how beautiful of a person and woman you really are. So beyond proud of you… Love you so much!

    Oh, and I think you are drop dead gorgeous. Always have, always will. 🙂

    • Pooja Parikh says:

      I have been so blessed to have such a strong support system through all of this. You are part of the foundation of that rock solid system, my sister. I love you and I have learned so much from you throughout the years. You are an amazing friend to me and I honestly do not know what I would do without you.

  5. Alexandria Reynolds says:

    Pooja, that is a great post. I really enjoyed reading that. I would like to quote you on this if I could..

    “Whenever I see people who are truly beautiful to me, they are beautiful because they harvest their inner beauty and display it, boldly. That beauty comes from honesty–an honesty I’m slowly learning about. These people courageously love themselves enough to be honest with the world and allow everyone to see a bit of who they are.”

    I think that is one of the most eloquent ways I have ever heard someone describe beauty.

    Thank you for sharing that. Hope all is well in your life!! 🙂

    • Pooja Parikh says:

      Thank you so much for reading my post! Of course you can quote me on that–I’m glad you appreciated it. : ) Hope you are great!

  6. Pooja, great post and thank you for sharing! So beautifully written. I adore you and will always remember the twelve-year-old Pooja! hehe 🙂

  7. Sejal says:

    Pooja i dont have any word to say. You are always in my heart and mind no matter where and when you are. I hats off to you and mom for the wilpower and patience. we love you no matter what keep it up the good work.see u soon.you look beautiful with long hair miss you.

  8. Hi, I came across your blog and couldn’t leave without commenting. Your story is amazing. You found a way to accept your body after what could only described as a turbulent journey. I can understand all the emotions that you’ve gone through and are continually going through because I’ve had HS since I was 13. But, I was just diagnosed in May – on my 24th birthday, no less. I definitely will be looking into the Paleo diet and I hope you keep up with this blog so that I can draw from your strength! Wishing you more good days than bad. Cheers!

    • Pooja Parikh says:

      Thank you for posting this comment! There have been times when I wonder if my blog is helping anyone and I start to lose momentum, but then I think about this comment and it gives me a reason to keep writing. I hope you are still reading and that my words can help you somehow. Please feel free to e-mail me if you have any questions or just need someone to relate to what you are going through. We HS-ers need to stick together!

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  11. Jess says:

    You’re such an inspiration to me–another girl who suffers from this horrible disease. Although it’s not as bad as it could be, it still mentally and emotionally destroys me on a daily basis. I’ve emailed you and would love to establish some sort of stable contact with you. I look up to you so much and admire you and wish I had your state of mind.

    • Pooja Parikh says:

      Jess, of course I understand the gripping emotional pain that comes with this disease. Thank you so much for your kind words–I would love to keep up a correspondence with you. HS is a disease that will tear you apart, but when you stick it out you’ll realize how strong it has made you as well.

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