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Small but Mighty

Editor’s Note: This piece was awarded an honorable mention in the Pulse writing contest, “On Being Different.”

I was born with what was described as a “mild” case of achondroplasia, a genetic condition that affects bone growth and causes short stature.

The average height of an adult female with achondroplasia is 4 feet 1 inch; I am 4 feet 5 inches tall. I do not have some of the “characteristic” facial features such as a prominent forehead

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I Can’t See Pictures in My Head

Editor’s Note: This piece was a finalist in the Pulse writing contest, “On Being Different.”

Visual imagination is like a superpower or a sixth sense: We take it for granted. On demand, we conjure up images of those we hold most dear: family, friends, our beloved pets. We envision people, places and things that we’d like to experience in the future. We revisit cherished memories simply by picturing them, essentially reliving them, all in our mind’s eye.

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What’s Wrong With You?

Editor’s Note: This piece was awarded an honorable mention in the Pulse writing contest, “On Being Different.”

“What’s wrong with you?”

The words cut through my mind and hit me in the gut. My fragile fifteen-year-old ego splintered like a glass cup slipping through fingers onto hardwood.

Tears welled up, and my lips pursed, ready to respond. But I couldn’t find the words—for in that moment, I truly knew that I was broken, I was ugly, I was wrong.

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Another Way to Listen

Editor’s Note: This piece was a finalist in the Pulse writing contest, “On Being Different.”

“David, from this moment forward, you’ll need to listen with your heart.”

It’s been forty years since I heard these words, but they ring as clearly in my mind as if it were yesterday.

My night nurse, Jill, whispered them into my left ear—the only one still able to hear after my fourteen-hour brain surgery to remove a tangerine-sized growth from the

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Over the Rainbow

Two days after the bus crash, I died. It was March 1996. A bus traveling at 60 mph had hit the car I was in, shattering my fifth and sixth cervical vertebrae and instantly paralyzing me from the shoulders down.

I was only twenty years old, and father to a one-year-old son. I spent the following forty-eight hours at a nearby hospital, on life support in the ICU. I couldn’t speak or breathe on my

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Many Shades of Different

Editor’s Note: This piece was a finalist in the Pulse writing contest, “On Being Different.”

Having stage IV cancer at twenty-one made me different from my peers.

I was already different: By the eighth grade, due to my mother’s quest for greener pastures, I’d attended twelve schools, many of them outside of the US. I was a Yankee when my family lived in Australia, but also when we lived in Florida. I was a gringa when we

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Scars

Editor’s Note: This piece was awarded an honorable mention in the Pulse writing contest, “On Being Different.”

In the summer between second and third grade, when I was eight, I first realized that it was safer for me to hide my surgical scars.

I had two huge scars starting at my hip joints and running halfway down my outer thighs. They were “Dr. Frankenstein” scars, with obvious cross-hatches that couldn’t be missed when I wore shorts or bathing suits.

That summer, my scars brought odd looks and comments from

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Our Shared Journey

Editor’s Note: This piece was awarded an honorable mention in the Pulse writing contest, “On Being Different.”

It took a terrifying and life-changing experience of being different for me to realize a fundamental truth: I’m the same as everyone else.

This truth has redefined my goals and reshaped the way I practice medicine.

At age twenty-nine, during my third and final year of internal-medicine residency, I received a diagnosis of a rare and malignant brain cancer called anaplastic astrocytoma. Quite

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A Puzzling Impulse

Editor’s Note: This piece was awarded an honorable mention in the Pulse writing contest, “On Being Different.”

My mother has always advised me that it is good to be “different.” She herself, growing up, wanted to be different in both her personality and her fashion. But her wish to be unique is not something I’ve inherited.

Beginning in elementary school, the last thing I wanted was to be different from my school friends—in fact, I wanted to

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My Invisible Illness

Growing up, I was a healthy child. I only went to the doctor for check-ups, vaccinations and school forms.

So when, at age fourteen, I woke in the middle of the night in excruciating pain and crawled into my parents’ bedroom to wake them to take me to the emergency room, I wasn’t prepared for what awaited on the other side of those sliding glass doors.

My experience was like a medical TV-show montage—bright lights, beeping monitors, medical professionals

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Assistant Head Wrapper

Editor’s Note: This piece was awarded an honorable mention in the Pulse writing contest, “On Being Different.”

I’m an antique. I started working as a junior copywriter at Time in 1972. I was a token Jew, a token hippie and a token “female professional” among hordes of perky typists and preppy males. The executives wore Cartier cufflinks engraved with initials and numbers, like GSW III or CMJ IV. My bosses were George the Third and

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The Quest of a Lifetime

Editor’s Note: This piece was awarded an honorable mention in the Pulse writing contest, “On Being Different.”

From a young age, we’re encouraged to stand out—to be who we truly are and to be proud of that person. We strive to understand both our strengths and our weaknesses. In doing so, we’re driven to move forward, knowing we’re doing our best. But sometimes we get stuck in a rut and can’t find our way. That’s where my story begins.

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