‘ BE­HIND EVERY SCAR THERE IS A STORY’

The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday - - Property -

In­sta­gram: the home of fil­tered per­fec­tion. Yet one 15-year-old is busily chal­leng­ing that. On Alessan­dra Wild­goose’s page there is a pho­to­graph of her with her hands in the shape of a love heart, fram­ing a scar on her stom­ach. In an­other she wears a crop top, scar on show. The cap­tion reads: “If they stare, let them stare – you can’t blend in when you were born to stand out.”

If th­ese sound like the post­ings of an extremely con­fi­dent young woman then it only un­der­lines how far Al­lie has come in the past three years, since be­ing sup­ported by Chang­ing Faces.

Born pre­ma­turely, with a cross­bite and necro­tis­ing en­te­ro­col­i­tis, she had to un­dergo surgery to re­move part of her bowel, which has left her with a scar across her stom­ach. It wasn’t some­thing the teen from Brad­well, Der­byshire, thought much about un­til she started sec­ondary school – and that was when the stares and com­ments in the PE chang­ing rooms be­gan.

Al­lie was dev­as­tated. But in­stead of telling her fam­ily and her mum, Jude, she de­cided to bot­tle up her feel­ings.

“I was em­bar­rassed and I didn’t want to up­set Mum,” re­calls Al­lie. “But it was a pretty bad time. I didn’t like my­self. I just thought if I just stayed out of the way, no­body would know I was dif­fer­ent. But every night I would cry.”

While Wild­goose no­ticed her shy and thought­ful daugh­ter was re­treat­ing into her­self, she had no idea that it was the scars on her stom­ach that were at the root of her low self-es­teem and the bul­ly­ing. “I’ve got scars. I’ve had my ap­pen­dix out and two cae­sarean sec­tions, so it wasn’t on my radar at all that other peo­ple would have a view on Al­lie’s.”

It was af­ter be­ing re­ferred to Chang­ing Faces for her cross­bite that Al­lie opened up about how she felt about her stom­ach scars. “It was like a dam ex­ploded,” says Al­lie. Wild­goose was astonished, par­tic­u­larly by how cruel chil­dren can be. “What it showed though was how chil­dren will sin­gle out any­thing that makes you dif­fer­ent,” she says.

While the coun­selling through Chang­ing Faces helped enor­mously, at first Al­lie was re­luc­tant to go along to one of the work­shops with other

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