Grace is a 17-year-old from The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). You may remember this story that I shared about her a few weeks ago. The only thing harder than being a teenager is being a teenager who looks extraordinarily different. And, boy, did Grace look different.
If you’ve never seen a young woman with a very large facial tumor, the photo I’m about to share may be hard for you to see. But I know it’s important for me to share – because this is the kind of impact healthcare makes. Grace’s tumor is gone and her life will never be the same, she will never have to suffer the way she’s suffered.
((text break for happy dance))
When I started with Mercy Ships, I set a goal for myself: to make every patient I write about relatable. There are some days I feel so foolishly lost in another culture that I wonder if I’m an alien. I think to myself, “Am I an alien?” Sometimes it’s hard to see what connects us all. At least at first glance.
But since her surgery, Grace’s real spirit has emerged. And you know what? She’s reminds me of any other 17-year-old I know at home. She cares about her clothes, her hair, and she poses for photographs with her hand on her hip. Maybe Congo feels far away to you, but you still know Grace better than you think.
When I get past the things that make us different – a language, a tumor, an age difference, the one million cultural gaps – people are people. They just are. It’s usually buried in the little stuff, so you’ve got to pay attention. The best days are the ones when I can see the connections, and I smile, thinking, “Grace and I share the same go-to photo pose!” and “Grace and I both laugh and think my French accent is awful!” We struggle to communicate, but my girl Grace, she gets me.
I’m glad that now the world can see how beautiful I’ve always thought she is.
((happy dance, refrain))