“Look beyond what you see and talk to the person. They are there because they’re interested in the job and want to work for you, and you should be respectful of that. We may look a bit different, but it’s just the skin we’re in.”

Judy's Story

9354951_origAfter having reconstructive surgery on her face after surviving cancer in her jaw, Judy Lewis, 43, from west London, approached Changing Faces for emotional support

As well as removing the tumour in her jaw, the surgery had removed fat and tissue, leaving her with a noticeably asymmetrical chin and extensive scarring on her neck and lower legs.

Judy said: “I was exhausted from all the surgery and dealing with cancer and the chemotherapy. When I came to Changing Faces for counselling, I was very down. I looked battered and bruised and even though I’m a strong person, there were days when it was very difficult looking in the mirror.’

Fifteen months after the initial surgery, Judy returned to work. For the past ten years she has been the Prop Supervisor at the English National Opera (ENO), based at the London Coliseum in Leicester Square, a job she loves.

She said: “I get to work in a creative environment every day, and no show is ever the same. I love the buzz of working in theatre. It’s very exciting and demanding and I’m always learning something new.”

Although she was nervous about returning to work with her changed appearance, she found her colleagues to be welcoming and supportive:

She explained: “My colleagues at the English National Opera went out of their way to be nice and they all knew what I’d gone through. My appearance had changed so much. I’d lost my hair and looked different. But it wasn’t an issue for my employers. There was never any feeling of concern about my ability to do my job or animosity about my change in appearance.”

Coming to terms with her changed appearance was a difficult process for Judy, but she remembers a nurse advising her ‘you should be proud of those scars because they are the reason you are here’.

Judy said; “This had an immediate profound effect on me and I instantly felt proud.”

Judy is thankful her employers have been supportive during her return to work and they recently asked her to take part in a film about the English National Opera.

She said: “The fact that they asked me to be interviewed on camera shows how they feel about me and don’t have a problem with my changed appearance.’

Judy believes employers should always see beyond a person’s facial disfigurement and focus instead on their potential.

She explained: “Look beyond what you see and talk to the person. They are there because they’re interested in the job and want to work for you, and you should be respectful of that. We may look a bit different, but it’s just the skin we’re in.”