By Rebecca Drew
THIS STUNNING woman is raising awareness though Instagram for the rare skin condition that caused an indentation on her face and a childhood of being cruelly bullied for having a ‘dirty face’.
When lifestyle photographer Michelle Gerovac (24) from Toronto, Canada was just five-years-old she noticed and was diagnosed with morphoea which falls under the disease called scleroderma, after a red patch appeared on her chin which later darkened in colour and left an indentation which spread to her neck, forehead and scalp.
It wasn’t until she started school that Michelle’s skin condition started to bother her as both children and adults would make comments about her appearance which made it difficult for her to make friends and subsequently she spent a lot of her time on her own.
Today, Michelle is more confident in her own skin but says she only decided to fully embrace her condition after researching it for her final college project where she explored how morphoea is portrayed in photographs.
“I was first diagnosed and noticed I had morphoea when I was about four or five years old. It first appeared on my chin as a red patch and has since burnt out to a darker colour and left an indentation. It has also spread to my neck, forehead and scalp,” explained Michelle.
“Since I was a child when I was diagnosed I wasn’t really bothered by how I looked until I went to school. At school I was bullied by the other kids who made up mean nicknames about me because of how my face looked.
“I would also be told by adults at school to “wash my face” or that I had a dirty face, etc. This made it hard for me to make friends and I spent most of my time alone.
“I definitely feel much more confident in myself now. I have a core group of friends who always tell me that they don’t even noticed my morphoea. I am better at explaining what the disease is and am actually trying very hard to raise awareness for this rare disease.
“When doing research for my thesis project in college, I started to notice how scary all of the medical morphoea images online looked. They were all harshly lit, with barely anyone’s faces in them. So, I started taking self-portraits for my project to create images that showed the beauty of the person who may have the disease.
“When I started sharing my self-portraits online and on my blog, I started getting messages and emails from other people in the world who have morphoea. They were telling me about their story, and it broke my heart to hear how some of them felt about themselves and their beauty.
“So now, I share pictures of myself with my morphoea showing, because I want the young people who have shared their stories with me to see more of a variety when it comes to the people they see online. Today’s society is so full of the “perfect” photoshopped bodies and models, that we forget what someone who is real or different actually looks like.”
Morphoea is an auto-immune disease that falls under the condition called scleroderma. Localised scleroderma, also known as morphoea, only affects the skin and in some cases can also spread to the tissues underneath such as the bones and muscle. It is caused by the immune system attacking the connective tissue under the skin which causes scarring and thickening of the tissue in these areas.
Michelle has frontal linear morphoea (en coup de sabre) which causes an indentation in a line on the front of the face that can spread to the scalp. There is no cure for the condition but there are some treatments, such as injections that can weaken the immune system to prevent further damage and creams that can be rubbed on the area. Michelle’s friends and family are proud to see that she no longer covers her face and she shared her advice to other morphoea sufferers.
“They are happy to see that I am no longer covering my face with my hair, or coming to them with stories about how someone said something ignorant to me,” she added.
“They share my blog posts and pictures online to help spread the word, and are my greatest support team.
“My message to some who may be feeling upset or self-conscious about their morphoea, or any facial or body difference, is to remember that they are truly unique and beautiful in their own way, and that they are not defined by their illness or how they may look.
“If someone is saying cruel things about them because of their morphoea, they have to remember that they are so much more than what they may look like.”
For more information see www.instagram.com/michelle__liane