Ciera Swaringen of Rockwell, North Carolina, has Giant Congenital Melanocytic Nevus, a skin condition that causes over-sized moles or birthmarks to appear on the body at birth.
Rockwell is a small town of only 600 people, and unfortunately, Ciera was bullied a lot as a child.
In an interview with The Daily Mail, Ciera explained:
“One day I remember being on the school bus and hearing a young boy laugh at me and call me a spotty dog.”
‘That really knocked my confidence, I was only young and it made me feel different to the other kids, like something was wrong with me.”
As she got into her teenage years, the cruel remarks continued:
‘Teenage boys are usually the first ones to comment when they see me. They say things like, ‘You look like you’re dirty, take a wash.’”
However, as the years went on, Ciera began to embrace her look.
Much of this was due to the confidence her parents instilled in her:
“I remember when I started school my mom told me that my birthmarks were angel kisses – and that really stuck with me.”
“And my dad is the first person to stand up to defend me if anyone says anything horrible to me.”
Eventually, Ciera began to look past the remarks.
“Over time I’ve learnt to brush off negative comments and remember that most people stare and say cruel things because they’re not used to seeing someone with my condition.”
“People in my town don’t bat an eye when they see me now, as they know me. But if I go somewhere new, it’s not so easy.”
Her mother Julie commented on her daughter’s strength:
“There have been times when people’s ignorance has gotten to her, with their comments or stares, but all and all she has stood strong.”
“Ciera is a beautiful young lady with a great personality, and I couldn’t be more proud of her- she is one of the strongest people I know.”
Ciera and her family have looked into medically removing the birthmarks, but doctors have explained that it’s just not an option, because the birthmarks never stop growing.
While her birthmarks pose no immediate danger, she is more prone to getting skin cancer:
“Suncream is like my best friend. I have to be extremely careful to make sure I’m protected on hot days. I use high factor cream and don’t spend too much time in the sun.”
“I still wear shorts and t-shirts when it’s warm, but I just have to make sure I’m being safe.”
Ciera recently discovered an online support group run by Nevus Outreach. And she’s looking into attending a conference to meet other people with her condition.