Scarves, scars & the year my face nearly fell off

Hello Sassy Spirits

I am Sheena.

I have always been a girl who loves her lotions, potions, makeup, clothes etc.  I might not be a total fashion plate, I’m certainly not a size zero, and I don’t spend stupid amounts of money on stuff.  I am, pretty much, a normal kind of girl who likes to look and feel good in my skin.

Which made 2006 a bit of a challenge.

Why?

I got chicken pox.

At 36 years old

So what? – you are probably thinking – it’s just chicken pox, I had it as a baby, man up you wet pants….

 

When you get chicken pox as an adult, it’s not that simple.

Here’s my story & how it began an obsession with scarves…

I am the wife of an RAF pilot and at the time we were living at RAF Odiham in Hampshire where he was flying helicopters, I was running my own I.T. training business and life was pretty good.  His job meant he was away quite a lot, and on the weekend I am writing about he was due to go away for a couple of days on the Monday.  I’d felt a bit off colour through the week, but was working on a big project in Windsor and just put it down to being over tired, a feeling I now know well, but that bit comes later.

I noticed my chest was a bit pink & itchy when I had a bath on the Sunday afternoon, and by Monday morning when I got back from walking my dogs, as I was getting dressed I noticed I had a few little blisters on it too.  I got in the car to go to work, felt a bit crap, called in sick and decided to go back to bed and sleep it off.

I woke up 36 hours later with a faintly panicky husband shaking me awake and two dogs with bladders of steel barking their heads off.

Were his first words to me those of concern, kindness & affection?

They were............

‘Jesus, it stinks in here, what the hell is wrong with you?!’

At which point I sat up to talk to him.

And he nearly threw up.

In the 36 hours since I’d gone to bed, not only was my entire body covered in chicken pox blisters, but they had become infected.  Hence the smell.  Lovely.  My face was so swollen, I couldn’t actually open my eyes, and when I did, it hurt so much with the chicken pox blisters on the inside of my eyelids bursting every time I did, I just kept them shut.  I had never felt so sick in my life.  I stank.  I was covered in sores.  I wanted a bath.  And my Mum.

What I got was the doctor, who my husband called out as soon as he’d got over the shock of his wife now looking like an extra in a horror film.  The doctor arrived within the hour, I attempted to be charming and witty to distract him from the sight & smell of the sick room, he prescribed industrial strength antibiotics and the journey to wellness began.

God it was hard.

It took several weeks for the antibiotics to clear the infection – many hospital tests to make sure my eyesight hadn’t been damaged (blisters inside the eyelids remember), my hearing hadn’t been damaged (blisters inside my ears and on the ear drums), and that my soft tissue infection hadn’t been deep rooted by where lots of other blisters were too.  I couldn’t walk as I had blisters on the soles of my feet, under my toenails, - everywhere.  And I mean, EVERYWHERE.  So it took a long time for this to clear up.

Meanwhile, we had made plans months before to go and see some RAF friends who had been lucky enough to get an exchange tour in the USA, in California.  I was looking forward to that.  A lot.  But it wasn’t guaranteed that I would be well enough to travel, so getting better was important, and I focussed on that.

Which meant I wasn’t really paying attention to much else. Like how my blisters were healing.  Or rather, how they weren’t.

By the time the infection had cleared, my face (and the rest of me) was a mess.  Red, raw & peeling with deep rooted scar tissue from the infected blisters.  Swollen eyelids, puffy face, scabs everywhere – boy, did I look a sight.  Not great for my self confidence, which promptly took a swan dive and disappeared. 

I didn’t want to go out. I hated the way I looked.

I knew I had to man up and do something about it.

And that’s when my obsession with scarves began.  I reckoned that if I developed a personal style that involved fabulous scarves, then maybe people wouldn’t look at my face.  I could effectively ‘hide’ behind the scarf whilst my skin healed and by body repaired itself.

So I bought my first scarf and gave it a go.  And it worked. 

Well nearly – when we arrived at the airport in California (I had warned them I still resembled a slice of cold pizza in the face department), I saw our chum saying ‘oh my actual god’ as they pulled up in their car.  So it wasn’t a total distraction!

But it was a shield.  Something I could use to help boost my confidence as I got back on my feet and got better.

Little was I to know how important scarves would be to me again in just a few years time.

My skin did heal.  Mostly.  I invested time and money in making sure I treated it right and nurtured it – and I still do.  I have some facial scars still, but they are not super noticeable, and the body scars don’t bother me at all now.

In 2010, just before I turned 40, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.  And although I had never stopped wearing them, scarves came back into my life in a BIG way during chemotherapy & hair loss.

I now have a collection of over 40 scarves.  My husband made me a frame to hang them all on, so I can see them all, which is amazing.

Some are soft, chiffon numbers in subtle shades – but most are punchy, sparkly and make me feel good.  My two favourite scarves of the moment are a gunmetal grey with copper rose Tinkerbells on it (what’s not to like about that!!), and a navy blue scarf with silver stars.  I wear them often.

I no longer use my scarves to hide behind – I don’t need that self confidence boost in the same way I did – but I do use them to help lift my mood. 

If I’m feeling a bit flat, then a fabulous sparkly scarf can help me feel a bit more sparkly too. 

Especially if it matches my shoes.  A pop of colour on a grey day can make me smile, and a gorgeous pashmina can be just the thing I need to pull an outfit together and feel happy and relaxed to face the day.

My scarves are now a massive part of my personal brand and style.  It’s a massive part of my WHO – an essential part of my business – as I now teach business owners how to create strong personal brands for themselves.  Because I have had to do that.  Twice.

But it started with needing something to help me regain confidence in my looks. 

Who would have thought all that could come from a simple scarf?

 


A massive thank you to Sheena for writing her story and for being brave enough to share one of her recovery photos. If any Sassy Spirits are interested in connecting with her you can reach her at www.kapowme.com

This is only episode 1 of my Fashion ~ Fear serial and I am looking for other inspirational ladies to come forward and share how they have used Fashion  in some way to overcome their fears. For more information on the series and to express an interest in writing a Guest Blog please email clare@sassyspirit.co.uk.

We are marking the launch of our guest blog series with a Scarf sale this weekend. All our print scarves are on offer at £5 until midnight on Sunday.

 

Thanks for reading

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