Marcus, 13 years old

Marcus was born with an unusual facial cleft and cleft palate and over the years he has had over 20 operations, the first when he was just four months old.

marcus_01Marcus’s cleft had not been picked up on any of the scans during pregnancy, so Marcus’s mum Sam says she had no idea what was happening, “they just whisked him off and it was three hours until I saw him again. Because Marcus’s cleft went from the corner of his right eye to the corner of his mouth the hospital hadn’t seen anything like it before, but the consultant we saw said he had a plan and we believed in him and still do as he’s seen Marcus through his operations.”

(image on the right: Marcus meeting Jacob Tremblay who plays Auggie in the film Wonder)

Going out with Marcus when he was younger, Sam says the worst reaction was when people would say to her, ’Oh dear, such a shame’, as if there was something wrong with Marcus. “I wanted to shout at them, ‘stop it, he’s fine, he’s healthy and he’s not any different to any other baby’.”

Marcus says he used to get upset when he noticed people staring at him in the street but Sam was always amazed by how he handled it. “One time we were on holiday, Marcus was about four years old, and a girl said to him ‘What happened to your face?’ and Marcus just said, ‘I was hit by a truck when I was two’. I couldn’t believe it but he just got on with it. I’d always know though if he was having a bad day as the staring would definitely affect him more.” 

Starting school seemed to go well, although Sam remembers one incident when Marcus overheard the teacher call him ‘Marcus with the face’ when she was talking to the classroom assistant, as there were two Marcus’s in the class. Sam says “I didn’t like that and went straight into school, they were horrified when they realised but it shouldn’t have happened.”

When Marcus was about eight years old Sam became very worried about him: “he went from being this bright, bubbly little boy to being very quiet and I knew something was really wrong.” Marcus admitted he was being bullied at school because of how he looked. He remembers it being a really difficult time, “they would call me names like ‘scar face, two-face and Joker.’ I was really upset and although I would try and ignore them it was really hard. My mum told me to tell the dinner ladies but it didn’t seem to stop them.” Eventually Sam got in touch with Changing Faces and they started to work with the family and the school. Sam says it was a really difficult time and she didn’t know what to do for the best. “It was very hard because the school were saying they were sorting it and then Marcus would come home and tell me that a little boy had turned round to him and said, ‘if I looked like you I’d have done away with myself’. This little boy was eight years old, I was so shocked.”

Gradually the work with the school seemed to make a difference and Marcus also took matters into his own hands by secretly making a short film to tell his class more about himself. Marcus says, “I just didn’t wanted to be treated differently any more so I decided to make a dvd so that they could see that I’m just like them and explain why I look the way I do.” By the time Marcus was ten, things at school were much better and Sam felt Marcus had become much more resilient and was able to cope if any comments were made.

The move to secondary school has been fine for Marcus and he’s popular, with a really good group of friends, and is hoping to become a physiotherapist when he’s older. Although he still gets stared at he says he’s better able to cope with it now: “it’s when adults stare and then keep on staring that I get fed up as it’s just so rude but on the whole I don’t let it bother me.” 

Marcus and Sam say the book, Wonder, really struck a chord with them. Sam could recognise so many situations that they’d been through, “I started reading Wonder and it was just so close to home, I could really relate to what the family were going through, the stares, the comments, even hurtful remarks from people who were friends.” For Marcus, he found the fact that the book highlighted situations he’d been through very ‘heart-warming’ and showed how important it is to be kind.