I live in Nokomis, a small town in Saskatchewan. My small-town roots have shaped my character as well as my journey with my cleft lip and palate.
I consider myself extremely lucky. I don’t remember a time when I haven’t been accepting and upfront about my facial difference. A big reason is my family, both nuclear and extended, who have always been there to support me through 14 surgeries, the speech therapy sessions that continue to this day, and other treatments throughout my childhood and adolescence.
I escaped the bullying that is often experienced by students with facial differences. My school was so small that I was never “the new kid”, and bullying was not tolerated in any form.
Meeting other kids who had similar experiences to mine also played a huge part. I was introduced to Camp Trailblazers in 2014 and never looked back, attending six years in a row. I was set to volunteer for the first time this summer when COVID-19 hit.
When I encounter negative reactions from others, I always use the self-advocacy skills I’ve learned. I’m aware that my facial difference is the reason some people might choose not to speak to me or get to know me. That’s their choice – but I don’t let their choices impact mine.
This fall, I am entering the first year of a toxicology program at university. My goal is to become a lawyer, which makes my determination to overcome my speech challenges even greater.
I want to help educate the community on facial differences because people should pause before jumping to stereotypes. We all have struggles. People with a facial difference just happen to have struggles that are visible.
I am understanding. I am always willing to lend a hand. I am supported.