Jono Lancaster’s parents decided not to take him home from the hospital after he was born.
They couldn’t accept him since he was diagnosed with Treacher Collins syndrome, a rare condition that alters facial shape and hearing ability.
Having the condition meant a lot of hospital trips and perhaps surgery, and they didn’t want to go through that.
Unfortunately, Jono was only a few days old when he was abandoned by the people who were meant to love him completely.
In the days that followed, social services tried all they could to locate him a suitable home. Fortunately, an angel in the shape of a kind and caring lady called Jean crossed Jono’s life.
She knew he belonged with her the instant she set eyes on him. After hearing his tale, she said, “How could you not love a child?” “When can I take him home?” she asked.
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Jono initially recounted his life story at the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD) Breakthrough Summit in 2015, which drew a lot of attention.
“I was born with a genetic condition that affects my facial features. I have no cheekbones, and so my eyes dip down,” he said. “I love my little ears, they don’t get cold at night. But I do need hearing aids. I’m one of the lucky ones. More severely affected individuals need help with feeding and breathing. I met some kids who’ve had more than 70 surgeries to correct problems that would make their lives easier.”
Jono says about Jene, the lady who gave him with a loving home:
“Jean adopted me on May 18, 1990 – so I get two birthdays!” he said. “I used to tell other kids that my mom went to the hospital and she looked at all the babies and she chose me, whereas their parents had been stuck with them.”
— Jono Lancaster (@Jono_Lancaster) November 17, 2014
Jean attempted to contact Jono’s biological parents many times, but each time received the same response: they didn’t want anything to do with him, not even meet him.
Jono, now 36, was bullied for the most of his childhood due of his appearance.
“When I became a teen, I began to think, why me? That snowballed into thinking about my birth parents. Parents are supposed to love you no matter what, even if you rob a bank. How would I ever have a family? Who will want me?” he said. “I started to hate my face. I became aggravated at not being able to change the way I looked. I avoided looking at my reflection, even in windows walking down the street. I was ashamed of the way I looked.”
But then something occurred that gave him back his confidence.
Everyone gazed at him and remarked on his appearance when he worked as a bartender. However, one day, a’skinhead’ client with’muscles on top of muscles’ visited the establishment.
No one wanted to serve him until Jono came along. “I have a question before you receive my drink. “Before you get my drink, I have a question. What’s up with your face?” the guy inquired.
“I was born with Treacher Collins syndrome.” The man responded with “all right.” Then Jono added, “I’m deaf,” and showed him his hearing aids. “Do they come with an off switch?” the man asked. “Damn, you’re lucky. I have a wife and all she does is talk 24/7, and to be able to switch her yakking off…”
— Jono Lancaster (@Jono_Lancaster) November 14, 2014
Someone laughed with Jono instead of at him for the first time in a long time. That prompted him to “concentrate on the positive.”
He now has a business partner and works as a motivational speaker. Jono spends time with young children who have the same condition as him, assisting them in accepting themselves as they are.
“So what’s changed?” he said. “People are still the same. My parents still want nothing to do with me. What’s changed is my attitude, and that’s so powerful. Instead of allowing negative energy to bring me down, I believe in myself. I wouldn’t change any of it. My attitude was more disabling than anything. With the right attitude, you can achieve anything.”
We’re so delighted he learnt to accept himself for who he is.