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Living with Sturge Weber Syndrome, I have learned empathy, compassion, and strength in ways that few children have the chance to learn. I plan to use these experiences β€” both the positive and the negative β€” to change the world in whatever capacity I can.

My Sturge Weber diagnosis at birth was one of the first diagnosed cases in Alberta. I was born with calcification on the left side of my brain and was predicted to have serious health issues. Miraculously, the calcification disappeared with no treatment, and aside from glaucoma in one eye that is monitored, I have been healthy. As a child, whenever strangers made a rude comment about my birthmark, my mother would educate them on my condition and then say, β€œand now I believe you owe my daughter an apology.” The way she modelled respectful treatment made a big impression on me.

At one of my summer jobs, I faced workplace harassment. While painful, that job influenced my decision to major in Human Resources in order to help increase female empowerment within the workplace. I want to use my voice on behalf of those who may not have one. The AboutFace scholarship will enable me to focus on my community and my education while working toward my future.

All my life, I’ve tried my hardest to be normal, and it felt like everything was working against me. I am tall, have incredibly curly hair, and my birthmark covers half my face. It felt impossible to blend in. Now, I can see these things as the blessings they are. I am not just like everyone else, and I no longer want to be. I only discovered AboutFace this past Christmas; however, I was moved to tears when I started reading the personal stories. Never before had I felt so understood, seeing other people like me. I am going to be a counsellor at Camp Trailblazers this summer and I am already looking forward to being a part of the Beyond My Face movement of self-love, acceptance, and awareness.

I am stronger because of my differences, and I am empathetic and compassionate because of my life experiences.

I am finally comfortable with not blending in.

I am determined to use my voice to make a positive impact.

[AboutFace note: Chelsea is one of the winners of the 2020 AboutFace Anna Pileggi Post-Secondary Scholarship]