What are the odds of my daughter being born with a Hemangioma? In Asian babies, the rate is 0.8% or 8 in every 1000 births. My baby is one of the 8 children.
Diagnosis: My Baby has Hemangioma
Danielle was born almost one month ahead of schedule. Weighing only 4.7 pounds, she was so delicate to look at. They say every mother’s child is beautiful. I believed it when I saw Danielle. I thought she was just perfect despite her frail frame. Her face was smooth with no signs of any birthmark. Since she has to be left in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit because she was preterm, I did not notice that a small very light pink birthmark began to appear on her left cheek. On the second day, her pediatrician informed me that my daughter has a birthmark on her face but it should be nothing to worry about. She says it’s very light that it’s even unnoticeable. I thought to myself, it’s ok, a small birthmark is nothing to worry about.
I was wrong. In the next two weeks, I became very worried when the seemingly faint birthmark grew rapidly. It graduated into an attention-calling dark red and raised flesh. We went to her pediatrician who diagnosed Danielle with strawberry hemangioma. I was told that it’s a birthmark that has grown rapidly with no known cause. My first question ofcourse was, is it is curable? The doctor said that it ‘might’ go away in a few years. When she said it ‘might,’ I felt overwhelmed. My first thoughts were how could my daughter grow up and not be teased because her face appears to be different?
When we went home, I devoured health books and scoured the internet for information on strawberry hemangioma. I learned that it’s a benign tumor more common (3:1) among girls than in boys. The cells of the inner lining of the blood vessels in her face have wildly increased resulting to a mass of abnormal blood vessels that protrudes form the surface. Despite learning that 80% of the cases recede on their own before the child reaches five years old and in some cases before puberty, I was not comforted. I wanted it to go away- right now and fast.
We went back to our pediatrician to discuss our treatment options. This, after seeing three more doctors. First, she said that we could simply choose to wait and let nature take its course. Second, we could opt for laser surgery. However, this would be necessary for types of hemangiomas that are prone to bleeding and infection (such as in the head or inside the mouth). At that time, this option was only available in Manila and only when the child would have reached at least three years old. Third, we could start Danielle on steroid therapy. This option might not yield a positive result but it might be worth trying.
I went home and began to do my own research. I’ve decided that steroid therapy with a high possibility of behavioral disorder as a side effect would not be an option. Laser surgery would have to wait until she is at least three years old. We decided that we will wait. We will allow the hemangioma to disappear on its own. If it won’t, we will go for laser surgery when she reaches three years old.
Coping with the stares and whispers
The grandmothers on both sides were the most worried on Danielle’s condition. Aren’t there any treatment? I have to explain to them that at the moment- No. We will have to wait when she is three years old. By the time she was five months old, the hemangioma had reached its full size. It was difficult to go unnoticed when we go to public places and malls. I’m sure it must just be my imagination that people are looking- no staring at us when we are in public. Strangers come up and say, “Oh, what’s that on your baby’s face?” If it’s asked outside my pediatrician’s lobby from mothers like me, I don’t mind and answer them. From giving long explanations, I learned to be brief. I simply answer, “it’s a tumor.” “Would it go away?” I would say, “Maybe… I hope so.”
With the passing of the months, I learned to cope with the interrogation specially if the questions are followed by, “she would have been really beautiful if not for that mark on her face.” I have to restrain myself from saying “Ofcourse, she is beautiful! Don’t you think your child is beautiful too? What’s wrong with a mark on her face?”I learned to just simply answer briefly or sometimes, move quickly to another aisle when a stranger stares at Danielle. Most of the time, I also have to deal with people looking at Danielle with pity all over their faces. In times like this, all I want to do is let Danielle wear a sign saying “I don’t need any pity- My mom says so!” Or, even from a family member who teases her, “the left side of your nose is protruding with the hemangioma.”
But people are not the same. Our close friends and family members were exceptional. They saw Danielle’s face, remarked that she is beautiful. Asked a few polite and tactful questions and then don’t mention the mark anymore. They see Danielle the way I see her- a normal, happy child. Then there are those who, without being offensive and overbearing, tell me that they have a son or daughter who also have a hemangioma. Interestingly, these parents don’t hesitate to show me the mark or spot where the hemangioma had been. I was encouraged by what I saw- all the marks had disappeared and what were left were very faint lines- the same lines that are now on Danielle’s face. However, the most touching were the kids. What I feared most was to have children taunt and not accept Danielle because she’s different. I was wrong. The children were the most accepting. They don’t seem to ‘see’ the mark. Instead, Danielle is just another normal kid.
Danielle’s Strawberry Hemangioma Today
Danielle’s hemangioma have almost disappeared. What were once red angry patches of blood vessels are now replaced with very light pink flesh. It has also flattened out that if seen two or three meters away, it would go unnoticed. I hope it would disappear completely very soon.I have also learned to forgive the unwelcomed remarks made some time ago and think of them as innocent and without malice.
I look at my daughter now and could not help notice her cheerfulness and happy face. Just like any mom’s child, she is beautiful with or without the hemangioma.
This post is dedicated to mothers who have a son or daughter with hemangioma