Growing up with cherubism by Vicky Lucas
I used to be just like every other kid. I was boisterous and very mischievous and I looked the way other little girls looked. But slowly my face started to change and at the age of four I was diagnosed with a rare genetic condition called Cherubism.
As my face became more deformed I started to become withdrawn. Kids at school would call me 'fat chin' and 'chubby cheeks'. When I'd walk down the street I would be stared at and taunted. Adults weren't much better either. They would also stare and say things like 'poor, poor thing!' which made me feel small and worthless. My teenage years were very hard because it's a time when you want to fit in with your school friends and be popular and like everyone else. But I didn't fit in, so I was very unhappy and kept wishing my face would become normal.
I loved reading. I used to spend hours in the school and local library reading books to escape from the bullying. Bullies don't tend to go to libraries, it's far too intellectual for them! But because I was reading so much my English levels increased and I got two As in my English GCSEs. At first I wanted to leave school and become a doctor/vet/teacher/air hostess/hairdresser/nurse like my friends, but when I was fourteen I decided that I really wanted to be a film director/writer/poet/actress/producer/journalist! So I left school and went to college and I'm now finishing a degree in animation, media and society. Those years spent hiding in libraries turned out to be very useful indeed!
I've often had people say to me, "Is there anything they can do for your face so you can look normal? No? Oh isn't that awful! You poor thing!" But is it so awful? I spent years feeling unhappy because people were cruel to me. But I realise now that it's not my face that is the problem but people's prejudices. We live in a society that says physical difference is bad and beauty is good. But this has resulted in disfigured and disabled people like me being treated like second class citizens because our bodies are
different and we are seen as less than human.
My face is very different, and some would say it was ugly. But I'm proud to have it. It's influenced me and made me stronger. I'm no angel (my childhood tendency towards mischief remains) but I think I'm okay. I learnt at a very young age that people can be cruel and ignorant and that the world is a very difficult place to live in when you have a disability or a disfigurement. Perhaps I was too young to learn this. But I think having this face has taught me one of the most important things that a person can learn; that it's okay to be different, even great to be different and that diversity is what makes life so special.