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Derek’s story: “Your soul shines on from within”

While Derek’s appearance has changed following major surgery, he wants to show the world that he’s still the same person he always was.

My name is Derek and I’m currently battling a face cancer called squamous cell carcinoma. I was diagnosed in July 2022 and had major surgery to remove the tumour, my nose and my neck lymph nodes.

I have tried to remain strong and positive throughout, but there have been times, especially just after surgery, when I lost my confidence and was apprehensive to go out and face the public with my facial disfigurement.

Everyday tasks became daunting to me. I remember I found it hard to get out of my car to go into a car dealership, as I was worried about what the staff would think of my appearance. People can quickly make an assumption about you based on how you look, and when you have a visible difference, this can be in a negative way.

When I’m out in public, I do receive stares and comments, but I try not to let them bother me. Most of the time, it comes from a place of curiosity, so I try to educate people about my condition when I can. The more people know about visible differences, the more accepting they’ll be.

Derek’s appearance might have changed, but he’s still the same person he’s always been

However, I have discovered that if you face your fears and continue to go out without hiding how you look, most people will see you for who you are – your soul shines on from within. It is very difficult to adapt to any facial changes, but it’s important to remember that you remain the same inside.

I’ve been able to find my inner strength by talking about my experiences and sharing my story. I created a YouTube channel called “Chasing the Phase” which I use to share my cancer journey. This has been good for me, as it’s given me an outlet to talk about how I’m feeling, almost like a video diary. Some days are more difficult than others, and being able to work through it by creating videos when I feel up to it has been so positive for me.

I also work on building my confidence through exercise and eating well. If I feel good in myself, then it enables me to enter social situations, or even just step outside, with my head held high.

Every day is a blessing for me, and I don’t want to let the way I look stop me from living. If sharing my story can make life a little easier for others with a visible difference, then I’m more than happy to do it.

Sending positive energy to anyone that’s dealing with a similar situation to me – shine on and walk tall.

Profile of a woman in an office environment, wearing a headset and smiling

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