[intro]Piercing your earlobes may seem a trendy thing to do, but it could have disastrous consequences for your health and appearance.[/intro]

Piercings are common in society today, as well as anything that makes an individual look attractive. When I first started my high school journey, I would literally try anything and everything that would make me fit in into a certain crowd.

Obsessed with what people thought about me, I would pierce my ears just to look the part – to look as cool as my classmates. The only problem was that I didn’t use the correct methods to pierce my ears. I used the actual earring to pierce my earlobe. Each piercing would eventually close and I would again use the earring to pierce myself – it was a constant thing, a repetitive routine. I was so obsessed with “fitting in” that I didn’t know there were consequences to my actions.

During Grade 11, something grew on my right ear lobe – a keloid. A keloid is a hard raised growth of scar tissue at the site of an injury. At first I didn’t know what it was, and thought it would fade away just as mysteriously as it had come, but it kept growing and growing and soon my right ear had a keloid protruding from both sides of the lobe. I became uncomfortable because people noticed them and started mocking me about it. My life changed in an instant. The extrovert I’d been became an introvert; I wasn’t as outgoing as before because I was ashamed of my oddly swollen earlobe. I was tempted to cut them off myself but I knew that would only make matters worse. The keloids – bubbles of hard scarred tissue – kept growing and growing.

The larger they became, the more I became an indoor person. I would anticipate winter with much excitement just so that I could wear a beanie and cover my hideous pimples. At that time, there was a new design of beanies that covered the ears so I bought them just to hide the growth I had on my ear.

I consulted a surgeon who said he couldn’t help because the keloids would just grow again. I was devastated. I thought I would spend the rest of my life looking freakish. But hope arose when Dr Mosese referred me to a surgeon at Pelonomi Private Hospital in Bloemfontein.

After months of searching for ways to get rid of the keloids, someone was finally able to help me. The plastic surgeon removed the growths and the burden I carried above my shoulders was taken away. It is not guaranteed that the tissue will not grow after surgery. In my case, I had to undergo Radiotherapy – which has the risk of causing cancer.

Before and after

The exact cause of keloids is unknown. But, it can develop after acne spots and boils, tattoos, piercings, burns, lacerations and surgical wounds. Infection increases the risk. This made me think that a lot of money could have been saved if only I’d used the correct methods to pierce my ears: Using a sterile needle, inserting a gold stem, and cleaning the piercing everyday using a saline solution. It is ironic how my strong desire to ‘’fit in” led to a harmful disfigurement that became the source of ridicule. Let us rather stand out than fit it.

I’ve since learned that in some cases, keloids increase the risk of cancer, making it very important to avoid them. Removing them eliminates the danger. I still see people with keloids as big as erasers on their ear lobes, and wonder if they know they don’t have to carry that burden. There are people who can help them.