BBC News

Princess Eugenie wedding: Royal inspires others by showing scar

By Kesewaa Browne & Andy McFarlane
BBC News

image copyrightPA

For her wedding, Princess Eugenie made a point of wearing a dress that showed off - rather than hid - a scar left over from a childhood operation.

Her declaration that "you can change the way beauty is" has proven an inspiration to many. Readers told us how they, too, are proud of their scars:

'My dress had a low back too'

Christine told us: "I'm really happy the word is getting out there and that there are people in those positions to be advocates for this."

Like the princess, she had major surgery on her back to treat scoliosis, a condition that causes the spine to bend to one side.

"Celebrities are showing off the fact that they're not bothered by their scoliosis, it helps those younger people who might be struggling with it," says Christine, who preferred not to give her surname.

The Queen's granddaughter, who had her surgery to treat a curvature of the spine at the age of 12, said she was wearing this particular dress as a way of "standing up for young people who also go through this."

Christine also showed off her scar at her recent wedding.

But she remembers how it felt as a teenager. Having been diagnosed with scoliosis at 14, she underwent surgery five times between the ages of 15 and 17.

'Felt like the end of the world'

"It was quite frightening as I didn't even know what it was, or anyone else who had the condition. I was going through puberty and a lot of changes.

"Your friends are going through expected milestones and you have to play catch up later. It felt like the end of the world... but it's worked out perfectly fine."

Christine missed Year 11 at school and had to retake some GCSEs in college. But she was grateful for the support of her friends.

"At one point I was wearing a full-body plaster cast, from my chin to my hip. School friends all came to sign it."

She still suffers back pain but says yoga and pilates help.

'I love my scars'

For Simon Howson-Baggott, 35, his scars are a reminder of a turning point in his life.

He doesn't look back at schooldays with fondness, having been given a plastic brace to wear after being diagnosed with kyphosis when he was 12.

"It was a big plastic ugly thing right around the body," he says. "I came up with all sorts of excuses to try not to wear it."

Where scoliosis causes the spine to bend to one side, Simon describes kyphosis as a "traditional hunchback".

He had to wait until he stopped growing, aged 18, for surgery. But two weeks in hospital and six months' recuperation disrupted his schooling and he left college with no A-Levels.

image copyrightSimon Howson-Baggott

Now he has a good job looking after corporate clients for a social media company, but he says: "It's been a real struggle."

Surgery left Simon, from Fareham, Hampshire, with a 38cm (15in) scar down his back and another measuring 15cm (6in) along his hip.

'Shark bite'

"It was horrendous at first but wasn't as painful after about three weeks. Afterwards you feel brilliant.

"I love the scars. I used to tell girls it was a shark bite."

He's even priced up getting a giant zip tattoo - £550 "because it's so big". But if it's painful on the wallet at least his deadened nerve endings mean he won't suffer under the needle, he jokes.

"I have seen some really cool ones on the internet," he says. "But it's different for blokes.

"It was really cool that Eugenie made a point of highlighting hers. For young kids like I was, you need something to say it's not a big deal.

"Maybe a bit of advice like that would have helped me."

'I used to be angry... now I'm empowered'

Journalism student Lauren Davidson used to be angry about her scar.

At the age of 18, after feeling "deep pain" in her stomach and researching her symptoms, she became worried she had an ovarian cyst.

However, a doctor told her she was fine.

After six months' feeling unwell, she suffered a five-day bout of what she thought was food poisoning.

"I was in pain all over my body. It was horrendous," she says. Her doctor took a blood test and after discovering she was anaemic, put her in an ambulance.

"They had to cut me open and see what was wrong," says Lauren, 24, from Grimsby. "I had two blood transfusions."

image copyrightLauren Davidson

Eventually, they confirmed the presence of a cyst.

"If the cyst had been found earlier I could have had key hole surgery. It took me a while to get used to this scar."

Since then, the scar has become part of her identity.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

"Now, I feel empowered by my scar," she says. "I don't cover it. It shows I've overcome something.

"I'd rather walk around with a 6in scar than not be here. I thought it was great to see Eugenie walk around with her scar."

'Real princesses have scars'

Mel Pollard, 35, welled up with tears when she saw Princess Eugenie proudly displaying her scarred back.

Mel's daughter, Connie, was left with a scar on her lower back after undergoing surgery to treat a spinal cord defect when she was just 14 months old.

The operation should stop her daughter from suffering problems with walking, her bladder or bowel. And while Connie, now five, has no issue with the scar, Mel still worries.

"When she's older she may feel self conscious about it," she says.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

So Mel, from Warrington, was delighted when she saw Princess Eugenie.

"I had a teary moment," she says.

"I showed my daughter when she got back from school that a real-life princess had a scar too. She thought it was brilliant."

"When she's older I can refer to this and remind her she can wear her scar like a badge of honour, that there's nothing to be embarrassed about, it's not a bad thing."

What is scoliosis?

Scoliosis is a condition that causes the spine to bend to one side, making the back appear rounded and shoulder blades stick out.

It most often starts in children aged 10 to 15 but there is often no known cause. Sometimes it is caused by the bones not forming properly in the womb or other medical conditions, including cerebral palsy.

Three to four children in 1,000 need treatment from a specialist.

The Scoliosis Association UK says about five out of six people with adolescent idiopathic scoliosis are female - but it is not known why.