A few months after Taylor’s surgery, the tumor showed no signs of returning. But Cheryl, his mother, began noticing a strange side effect: Taylor began compulsively scratching around his left nostril. She first asked him to stop, then told him to stop—to no avail. “He just kept saying, ‘It itches, Mama. It itches,’ ” she remembers oh so well.
That itching sensation never stopped. Something in his brain was triggering the sensation and, like any 5-year-old would, he kept scratching. Cheryl took alternative methods like putting Band-Aids on his fingernails to stop him, but nothing worked. He just kept scratching. Day and night. Night and day.
After a little more than a year, he had scratched his left nostril so much that it literally rotted off, leaving a gap in its place. “From that time on…” Cheryl says,
Taylor went through so much ridicule, and he had to deal with that for nearly 10 years.
Early on, doctors had explained to Cheryl the primary obstacle to Taylor’s nose reconstruction: He was still growing. Surgeons wouldn’t know how his left nostril should look until his nose fully matured.
No Place Worse Than School
Other people’s stares shaped Taylor’s impression of the world. He couldn’t go anywhere without not-so-furtive glances acknowledging his facial difference, especially at school. Instead of quickly glancing at Taylor’s nose, the young students at his elementary school called attention to it and mocked him. Being called “ugly” was the least of it. Cheryl says,
Kids may not intend to be mean, and sometimes they don’t know any better, but his self-esteem suffered all the same.
By the time he reached middle school, Taylor was angry — at his schoolmates who bullied him, teachers who didn’t protect him, the mother who couldn’t rescue him, and the world that stared at him. “He started getting in trouble a lot—getting in fights and talking back not only to teachers, but to principals, too,” Cheryl says. “He was so frustrated and sensitive about not being able to do anything about the way he looked.”
Cheryl regularly fielded calls from the principal’s office. One call was about Taylor yelling back at a teacher in the hallway who told him to stop wearing the hood on his sweatshirt, a dress code violation. “The teacher didn’t understand that Taylor wore that hoodie to cover his face,” Cheryl says. “Stuff like that made me ache for Taylor to have his nose repaired. People were dismissing him as another bad kid; they didn’t understand the circumstances behind his anger.”
It’s a New Day: Part 3 covers Taylor’s return to Children’s to meet with Dr. Alex Kane, division director of Plastic and Craniofacial Surgery, to discuss the repair to his nose and the transformation that follows.