‘ BEHIND EVERY SCAR THERE IS A STORY’
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