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Legacy of Our Veterans' Military Exposures
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Sharity Keith Reichards 2nd Generation Agent Orange Victim Dixoin Survivor

I am the 2nd Generation

Agent Orange Victim Dioxin Survivor

 

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Photo courtesy Sharity Keith-Reichards 
Sharity & her dad, Milton Yarbourgh Keith







There is no history on either side of my family that can account for any of this. The only known potential environmental factor is my father’s exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam. He died in March, 2009, of Agent Orange related cancer.

" I would never have children"

I was almost 16 when they told me I would never have children, and that I would have to undergo either a “procedure” for many months or surgery to have a “normal” sex life. I had never even had a date.

" He called me a freak "

I was 19 when a boy wouldn’t believe I really couldn’t do “it” and he made me bleed. He called me a freak and told everyone he could.




I was 21 before I could even talk to a therapist about the embarrassing thing that was wrong with me, and make a decision to do something about it. I chose surgery, and I had to do it before I turned 23 or my mother’s insurance wouldn’t cover me for a 6-figure operation I would never be able to afford on my own.




I was 22 when I spent 17 days in a hospital in Birmingham, AL to undergo a procedure similar to a sex change operation so I could be “normal”. I spent 12 of those days unable to move from the bed, and the last five learning to care for myself and how to manage the mold I had to keep inside me for six months so my new vagina did not close up.




I was 23 when I discovered that I would never feel sex the same way that other women would, because I have no nerve endings in there.




I was 23 when I met the only other person I’ve ever known with this condition. I was 23 when my best friend from college had her baby the day before my birthday. I was happy for her and jealous for me throughout her pregnancy. I was 28 when my fiancé left me because I would never give him children.

I was 34 when I found out my condition actually had a name, Mullerian Aplasia.

My doctors never told me. I wrote to someone in Norway and he sent me pages from a rare birth defects document. That’s when I learned I was lucky I wasn’t born with my arms on backwards, and why my arms don’t have the same range of motion as most people.

I would rather not write this. I don’t want everyone to know.

I am 39, and I am still sad sometimes that I will never have a child. I’ve had friends offer to carry my baby, but I don’t even know if it’s possible. And the “what ifs” scare me. I would never want anyone else to experience this. I don’t want to be asked things like, “so they are sure you’re supposed to be a girl, right?”

This isn’t all. I was 2 when they diagnosed me with Alopecia Universalis.

sharity Keith swinging all alone
Photo courtesy Sharity Keith-Reichard
Sharity swinging alone




I was 7-8-9 when the Atlanta dermatologist convinced my mother sun burning my head on purpose every night would make my hair grow. There was medicine for my head, and a giant sunlamp that looked like a coffin lid. I was 9 when she took me to Florida on a trip, used the medicine, and I got 18 hours of exposure because the medicine reacts to sun and to florescent lights. I had 2nd and 3rd degree sunburn on my head, and it’s the first time I remember staying up all night and watching the sun come up. I could not lie down for six weeks and slept sitting upright against the wall. The emergency room doctor told my mother she almost killed me.

I was 11 the first time someone tried to pull my wig off.

I was 12 when my first crush gave my note to a popular girl who made fun of me for thinking anyone could ever like a freak like me. I was 16 before I let my best friend since 5th grade see me without my wig. I was 16 when I said No More Doctors. I was 19 and in college when I went on my first date. I was 5 ft 5 and I weighed 91 lbs because I was anorexic.




I was 20 when I told my roommate I wanted to go to class without my wig and wear a scarf on my head. She agreed to walk me. Three days in a row we made it to the street in front of our place. Three days in a row I went back in and put on the wig. Day four I went to class.




I was 21 when the frat boys threw a brick in my bedroom window, and when I confronted them, they told me I should wear my wig or go home. I was 21 when I refused to ever go on another date with someone unless they knew and accepted what I looked like.

I was 25 when I began to believe I could be loved no matter what I was.

Sharity Keith & her hubby
Photo courtesy Sharity Keith-Reichard
Sharity & her husband

I was 28 when I changed my mind. I was 31 when a drunk-at-the Christmas-party principal told me he never would have hired me if he realized I was wearing a wig. I was 35 when another principal sent her friend over to talk to me in the hallway about where I could get wigs and scarves.

I was 38 before I could believe my boyfriend of 7 years really loved me enough to marry me.

 

 

Sharity Keith's wedding pic
Photo courtesy of Sharity Keith-Reichard 
Sharity's wedding




I am 39. I find some conversations with other women perplexing. I’ve never had a period. I’ve never shaved my legs. I can put on makeup, and eyelash extensions, and a wig, and I can walk right by you, and you may never know what’s different about me.

Oh, insurance companies know.

I’ve been refused coverage due to my pre-existing conditions. I live with knowing I’m different, always. I see what others go through, and it could be much, much worse. I’ve come to terms with much of it; you have to, to stay sane.

 

There is no history on either side of my family that can account for any of this. The only known potential environmental factor is my father’s exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam. He died in March, 2009, of Agent Orange related cancer.

I am his only child.

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Photo courtesy Sharity Keith-Reichard 
Sharity's Dad, Milton Yarbourgh Keith
Legacy of Our Veterans' Military Exposures
  1. Debbie Z Reply

    You look very happy in the photos with your dad & husband, Sharity, and I'm very happy for you and the new life you've found!

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