## Child Abandoned Because Of His Disfigured Face Grows Up To Inspire Others Like Him


A mother's love for a child is just about always blind: regardless of appearance, not much can stop a mother from proudly showing off pictures of her little baby to anyone who will stop and look.

Unfortunately for Jono Lancaster, that wasn't the case. Born with Treacher Collins syndrome, Jono was abandoned by his birth mother at the social welfare clinic only a few hours after he was born.

But while he may have had a face his own mother couldn't love, that didn't hold him back one bit—not even in the slightest.

Just about everyone who's ever had a child will tell you they have the cutest baby of all time. And whether her little one is covered in dirt or dripping with drool, it's safe to say that every mother loves her baby, and chances are she's got a collection of photos on her phone that she's ready to proudly show at a moment's notice.
Well, almost every mother. Jono Lancaster of England was born in the early 1980s with Treacher Collins syndrome. His facial structure never fully developed while in the womb, so Jono carried the appearance of most children born with this syndrome. He also had hearing issues, but he was otherwise a healthy little boy. Still, his mother abandoned him.
After just 36 hours, Jono's birth mother gave him up to social welfare. Whether it was because the way he looked or because she thought she would not be able to take care of a child with special needs, Jono's situation was the same: he was alone and unwanted. That is, until Jean Lancaster found him.
Now a Lancaster, Jono had a loving home and family to raise him, but as soon as he was old enough to go to school, life took a quick turn downhill for him. He started realizing he didn't look like his classmates. "I used to hide how unhappy I was from my mom. She had already done so much for me," he told BBC.
His classmates didn't make life any easier. They would tease him by pulling down their faces and mimicking his appearance before running away so as not to "catch his disease." As he grew older, life only became harder. Being surrounded by teenagers didn't make things any easier.
"I set a firework off in class, I got up to no good," Jono told BBC. "It was quite often alcohol related, I got quite a bad reputation amongst mums and teachers." But as long as his classmates were talking about his actions, they weren't talking about his face—and that's all Jono wanted. Depression sank in. Existence was painful. Eventually, though, things turned around...
Jono worked toward becoming a fitness instructor and started working at a gym. While the wall-to-wall mirrors were a form of torture, the rest of the job was a blessing. People at the gym took a liking to him, and he met Laura. Years later, at 33, he and Laura were inseparable.
Today, the couple lives in Normanton, West Yorkshire, and Jono couldn't be happier. "I just feel so relaxed in her company," Jono told BBC about the girl who accepted him for who he was. He works as a team leader for adults with autism and has devoted his life to helping those with Treacher Collins syndrome.
"What really frustrates me and upsets me," Jono said, "is when a child in a supermarket stares and his or her mother tells them off. I wish they could come and talk to me so that I could tell them about it—so that is seems more normal." Still, he works tirelessly to help those with and without Treacher Collins to understand how to deal with it.
Jono visits schools, classrooms, and auditoriums to introduce young kids to the condition. He's mulled over the idea of having a child himself, but isn't sure: "I really want to do the school run, take my child to dance, gymnastics or football," he said. "But how can I knowingly put my child through operations, hospital appointments and bullying?"
Hopefully his work will help spread awareness so that, eventually, his worries aren't even an issue. Still, Jono says he wouldn't change his circumstances if he could. Doctors have offered cosmetic surgeries and he's turned them all down. "I'm glad I didn't choose anything. I'm proud of who I am. And Treacher Collins made me who I am today."
As for his birth parents, Jono recently tried to reconnect with them, but it was not a fruitful experience. Somehow, he still came away with the right attitude. "My parents still want nothing to do with me,” he said of the his visit. "What’s changed is my attitude, and that’s what’s so powerful... I wouldn’t change any of it. My attitude was more disabling than anything. With the right attitude, you can achieve anything."

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