By Rafaela Kuznec @RafaelaKuznec
Scroll down for the full story
Videographer / director: Howard Shack
Producer: Rafaela Kuznec, Ruby Coote
Editor: Tom Buckman
Casey Hall, 24, from Blaine, Washington, was born with a vascular birthmark that resulted in a port-wine stain on the left side of her face and growth of the lower lip.
A port-wine stain is a vascular birthmark caused by abnormal development of blood vessels in the skin, also referred to as a capillary malformation.
Casey’s birthmark is not evolving in shape but every once in a while it changes colour depending on the body temperature changes.
Throughout her life, the 24-year-old has gone through 13 laser surgeries which resulted in her birthmark to shrunk.
Casey told Barcroft TV: “I don’t feel like it’s a birth defect even though like in the strictest sense of the term it is, to be defective is not something I want to be called.”
Growing up Casey ‘hated’ her reflection in the mirror and felt insecure about her appearance due to the pressure to look a certain way.
“I always thought you need to cover them, you need to look the same as everybody else,” she said.
Casey continued: “I struggled to meet people because once they saw my picture they would just not want to date me.
“I was down on myself and going through some mental health issues.
“Self-esteem was definitely a big factor in my life.”
Everything changed when Casey came across Instagram posts of other women with similar condition and has been inspired by their strength and confidence.
She explained: “I saw everybody was posting their stories about their mental health problems and how they found a community through Instagram.
“I started looking for people who had birthmarks.
“Through social media, I was able to see these strong women and realise if they can do it, I can do it.”
Casey added: “Social media has boosted my confidence because I feel that by finding other people who share similar stories or the same story, I have a kindred spirit and I know that I'm not alone.
“A lot of the time if you feel self-conscious, it’s because you feel alone and finding those people has helped me.”
Casey’s mum, Kari Hrutfiord, said that she wasn’t aware of her daughter suffering from low esteem and explained: “She always seemed like she was a happy-go-lucky kid and apparently deep down it was getting to her…
“I think she is very strong, she overcame a lot.”
Casey met her husband Jacob Hall online three years ago.
Jacob described the time when they first met: “She posted something in the middle of the night.
“It drew my eye, we just started talking and hit it off.
“Maybe three weeks after we started talking when the whole, ‘Can I at least see your face to get to know what you look like?’ So I can, you know, put a face to the voice I'm hearing on the other end of the line.
“She was very hesitant at first and I remember she was very surprised when I actually knew what a port-wine stain was already.
“A couple of months later, I was flying out here to meet her for the first time.
“When I saw her it was just the smile that immediately came to her face and it …
“I'm not so good with the words to express exactly what it felt like but it was a powerful moment…and six months after we were engaged.”
Even though Jacob himself has never been bothered by Casey’s birthmark, he admitted that people on the street are constantly staring at Casey.
He said: “If they are adults, I tend to just stare them down, just because I know they don't appreciate it and I know Casey doesn't appreciate being stared at.
“But if they are kids I normally just kind of acknowledge that I caught them staring and they have that sheepish grin and they look away.”
Casey said she has finally learned to love her birthmark: “When I look at my reflection in the mirror, I see a beautiful confident woman who can take on the world.
“I still see my birthmark, but I have learned to love it.”
Today she spreads awareness of visible difference by sharing her own story of living with a facial birthmark.
Casey said that people who live with a visible difference should know that they are not alone: “There is somebody out there even if it’s one other person that knows what you’re going through.
“Maybe not to the certain extent because you might not have the same background, but you always have a support system in the community for facial differences and it doesn’t matter what the differences you might have.”