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I was born with a cleft nostril. Yes, you read that right: not a cleft palate, not a cleft lip – just my nose was affected. At the time, I was the only documented case of this at the Hospital for Sick Children. After 11 surgeries and after having spent a large portion of my childhood at SickKids, my physician told me there wasn’t anything else that could be done.

I went through a lot of bullying as a child, but my family was a constant support. My dad would always tell me how beautiful I was and my older brothers were my protectors.

My oldest brother Jim was born with esophageal atresia, a life-threatening condition where the esophagus is not attached to the stomach. So my parents’ perspective on my facial difference was that they were very grateful I was healthy.

My desire to be a nurse definitely came from my childhood experiences as well as the urging and encouragement of my doctor. I’ve had an interesting and fulfilling career as a hospital RN; working on the medical unit, intensive care unit, coronary care unit and now in cardiac research.

Generally people are sensitive and respectful to me, but there are still people who stare and who talk after I leave the room. It’s not what someone says so much as how they say it – the non-verbal cues. I encourage people to ask about my facial difference if they’re curious.

When my oldest son Nathan was going to kindergarten, I asked him what he was going to say if his classmates asked him what happened to his mommy’s nose. His response was, “Mommy, what’s wrong with your nose?” He never noticed I was different.

I truly believe that everything I went through when I was younger made me stronger, kinder and more understanding of people and their needs.

I want to encourage anyone who has a facial difference to allow your light to shine from inside. It used to bother me when I heard people refer to me as “the girl with the weird nose.” Now I’m thankful that God has made me special so people remember me. You are special too!

I am a wife, mother, grandmother, and nurse. I am wonderfully made. I am loved.