by Patrick Brenner
High school is rough. With pressure from your peers to fit in, with pressure from your
parents to behave, with pressure from the school to study hard, it’s a miracle any of us made it out alive. Some of us had an exceptionally difficult experience. I consider myself one of those.
Back in the 90s, I was diagnosed with x-linked hypohidrotic ectodermal dysplasia (XLHED). My age was still in the single digits and I had no idea what it meant.
I did know a few things: my teeth were abnormal, my sweating abilities were subpar, and my classmates enjoyed laughing at my expense. I consider myself incredibly fortunate that my case does not involve the typically seen absence of hair. Unfortunately, it does not make much difference to high schoolers who do not consider the feelings of anyone else.
Freshman English class, 2006. Two girls in that class would call me names, and would never forget to mention my distinct lack of teeth. I remember the day that I was finally able to acquire a partial denture that made me look more normal. Looking in the mirror, I saw a person I was proud to say was me. My self-esteem improved dramatically. I smiled more. I was happy.
After high school graduation, I said goodbye to my great friends and my bullies. I move on to study business administration at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. During my second semester, my father passed and I met the most beautiful woman. I met her while in the co-ed dormitory when she was washing dishes.
Today, our biggest disagreement is who is going to do the dishes…how ironic. Additionally, she certainly does not mind that I leave my dentures out at night. She does not judge me for my physical appearance. Instead, she judges me because I do not help as much as I should with the dishes.
While I was a student, I found gainful employment with a local printing company. I learned the printing industry like the back of my hand, and I enjoyed it. I loved it. It was an industry that required an incredible attention to detail that was also fun.
Several years later, I can say that I own a highly successful marketing firm. Recently, I even approached the National Foundation for Ectodermal Dysplasias to bid on their future marketing needs. This was a fantastic feeling.
I was approaching the organization that is helping me fight my insurance company for coverage of intensive dental work. I had approached the organization whose brochures displayed a picture of myself back in the 1990s. That is my success story.
In the professional world, you hear the phrase, “The best revenge is to be successful.” They are right.
One thing that I am sure of is that I am successful. I have created my own successful company, I married a beautiful young woman, and we have two incredible daughters. In the face of adversity, I have become successful. In my 24 years on this planet, I’ve accomplished an incredible amount, and I hope to continue. That is the best revenge I could ask for.
For those of you who face the challenges of ectodermal dysplasia, I would like to offer some advice. In the words of Commander Peter Quincy Taggert of Galaxy Quest, “Never give up, never surrender.” If I gave up, if I surrendered, my company, EDJ ink. would not exist.
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