When Sarah Atwell from Nova Scotia, Canada, was a baby, nobody would have thought that anything about her was different. She was a healthy, happy child and there was nothing unusual about her appearance. But as she got older her stepfather, Kenny, began to notice a change. One side of her face was beginning to droop.
When he brought this to her mother's attention, she immediately took her to the doctor. Then came the shocking diagnosis: Sarah was suffering from neurofibromatosis, a genetically inherited condition that can cause tumors. In Sarah's case the tumor was in her face and it was causing the right half of her face to sag.
When Sarah was diagnosed she was too young to undergo surgery. Fortunately the tumor was benign and it wasn't necessary to risk the heavy bleeding that would result from a surgical removal. But Sarah was still suffering emotionally and her pain grew worse as the tumor grew and her face became more disfigured.
Sarah's parents thought that they knew how much their daughter was hurting, but they actually had no idea what she was dealing with every day at school.
Her schoolmates and other children were teasing her horribly, calling her names and making fun of her appearance. Sarah was bullied and excluded but none of her teachers did anything to stop it even though they could see how much it was affecting her.
To show the kids who were bullying her and the whole world how much she was suffering, she made a video and posted it on her Facebook page. The video was extremely moving and touched everyone who watched it. In it she explains who she is, a 16-year-old girl who is getting ready to start a new school year in Grade 11.
And she revealed how awful her life was at school and how she had been bullied for six years. She made a heartfelt plea to be seen as simply "different" and not "abnormal". You can watch the entire video here:
Since telling her story publicly, the brave teenager has been rewarded with a wave of admiration for her courage. Her schoolmates now see her in a whole new light and are impressed at how strong she is. Today Sarah is 17 years old and a dream has come true for her: she has finally received the operation to remove the tumor and restore her face to its normal shape. It was a dangerous procedure, but also a success and Sarah is overjoyed with the results.