Seria's Story - "It's hard but it does get better"
Eleven years ago, Seria was the fittest she’d ever been; cycling or running 12 miles a day to work and taking long cycles at the weekend. She was even contemplating doing a triathlon at the time.
Then one day, all that changed. Seria was cycling home from work when she was the victim of a hit and run. Hit by a disqualified driver who cut across the road, she crashed into the rear side window “the driver continued to drive until I eventually fell out”.
Her husband was due to meet her at a restaurant and was waiting for her there. When she didn’t arrive, he got worried and called her until a paramedic eventually answered and told him to come to the hospital. “On top of the deep lacerations to my face, my cheekbone had collapsed, I had a break above the cheekbone, I had lost four teeth, and I had received stitches to my tongue.”
Seria had surgery a few days later, and was advised to look in the mirror before she left hospital. “I was apprehensive because all my visitors looked shocked when they came to the ward and my 19-year-old son had burst into tears. I went to the mirror and was absolutely horrified. My face was maybe twice the size it should have been because there were so many stitches. I sobbed as I couldn’t bear to look at myself.”
Trying to be strong for her family despite feeling like her life was over was incredibly hard. “Children were visibly scared by my face and adults, mostly men, would stare”. It was a terrible time for Seria and on top of all that she wasn’t offered any counselling by the NHS or told about any organisations who could help her which was extremely disappointing.
A year went by of attending appointments, going to work and all the while she was completely unravelling. “It culminated in me having a breakdown”. Seria’s husband insisted that they go private for counselling to help her with the devastating things she’s gone through. Fortunately, they had recently found themselves in a position to cover the costs, if Seria’s husband hadn’t sold his old flat they may not have been able to get the help they needed.
Throughout Seria’s recovery, she received three major operations to reconstruct the damage to her face. “Shortly after recovering from the last surgery, which coincided with my birthday, I received some good news. I had longed for another child and discovered I was pregnant”.
“Everything I was going through at this time made me realise just how precious my life was.”
Her consultant suggested having some further operations, but she felt that she wanted to start living and enjoying her pregnancy without having surgeries hanging over her. So, she made the very brave decision to live with what she had and make the most of it. “As friends and family commented on my progress, I realised that this would be my new normal and I slowly regained my confidence.”
Throughout all of this, Seria continued cycling. She decided that the driver had already impacted her life so much that she wasn’t going to let him take her love for cycling away. “Cycling has played an important role in my recovery and mental wellbeing. It keeps me fit and allows me time to meditate and reflect on my life.”
The 10-year anniversary of Seria’s accident was 2019, and this gave her the idea of cycling from Land’s End to John o’ Groats (LEJOG). She cycled the route un-assisted last September during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although some restrictions had eased, this did present some challenges. Many cafes, restaurants and pubs were still closed or only offering take-away food, so she struggled to get nutritious meals on route but she did it nonetheless.
“The generosity of people was a real highlight for me. The Town Councillor of Monmouthshire contacted me in advance to ask when I was going to cycle through so that they could welcome me. They made banners, presented me with gifts and around a dozen people took me to a cafe and treated me to food and their company.”
Seria now does lots of work with Changing Faces, a charity dedicated to those with visible differences. Someone that we intend to work with to make cycling a more inclusive space.
“I feel very strongly about supporting their work because of my own experience of living with a visible difference. I hope that my story helps anyone struggling with a visible difference realise that there is light at the end of the tunnel, as how you feel about yourself changes over time. It is hard but it does get better.”
What would you say has been your biggest challenge throughout your cycling journey?
The biggest challenge for me was recovering from a hit and run cycling accident which is how I acquired my visible difference; my recovery was slow both mentally and physically. I was determined to make a recovery and regain the confidence to get back on my bike and enjoy cycling again. One of the pivotal moments during the later stages of my recovery was having the confidence to go on a solo cycling trip to Arran.
What’s your favourite piece of advice you’ve ever received
Be consistent with everything you do.
What’s your personal mantra?
One life, live it.
What’s your favourite thing to do after a gruelling ride?
Peppermint tea and a bath.
Thank you so much to Seria for sharing her incredible story of recovery and resilience and to Changing Faces for helping us make cycling a more inclusive space.
If you, or a loved one have a visible difference and need some advice or support, please get in touch. Whether you need advice, information, or just to talk about an appearance-related challenge you’re facing, Changing Faces’ support and information line is there for anyone with a visible difference and their families.
You can also access support on the Changing Faces website, where they have a number of self-help guides.
0345 450 0275