Imagine being terrified to show your face to the world, doing so with great courage, and then having your face rejected by Facebook because putting it next to a prettier face was an “unrealistic before and after.” Ouch. That is exactly what happened to Lisa Goodman-Helfand who suffers from scleroderma.
The mother of two from Highland Park, Illinois, has scleroderma. It is rare, but the results are devastating. It causes a chronic hardening of the skin and connective tissues, which for her means three layers of concealer to hide the red and purple hard spots on her skin and contracted arms and fingers. She never leaves the home without makeup. Even to take out the trash.
Here she is with her husband:
Of course, she is lucky in the sense that the scleroderma is not going to kill her. For 23-year-old blogger Chanel White scleroderma means her internal organs are hardening, which is putting her life in danger. Goodman-Helford, who runs the successful blog Comfortable in My Thick Skin, sent Facebook a side-by-side photo of herself without makeup juxtaposed with one of White to raise awareness about the fact that scleroderma is not merely a cosmetic issue. The photo is not on Facebook, but Goodman-Helford posted it on her blog.
Facebook sent this message: “Your ad wasn’t approved because it includes ‘before and after’ images, or other images showing unexpected or unlikely results. It’s also recommended that you avoid focusing on specific body parts, because these images typically receive high negative feedback.”
Ouch. As if Goodman-Helford didn’t have a hard enough time. She is using the opportunity to teach others, though. And there is much to teach. Scleroderma can affect people both inside and out and some of the first symptoms are often a hardening of parts of the skin or extreme sensitivity to cold or emotional distress. The toes or fingers might even change color in response. Acid reflux is also a common warning sign.
Though there is no cure, there are treatment options to help with the symptoms. In some cases, sadly, this can mean amputation of limbs or other kinds of surgery. It’s a rare disease, so often doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Goodman-Helford wants to change that.
Her message is simple, but so important. Don’t judge a person by what you see immediately. You never know the battles we all fight. “The next time you meet someone who you deem too fat, skinny, old, young, loud, quiet, pretty, ugly, or spotted, remember the story of the two faces you just read about,” she says in a blog post. “Think about the beautiful young woman and the weird-looking spotted lady, and then, take another look.”