By Kate Moore @kitmoore
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Videographer / director: Barcroft Studios / Future Publishing
Producer: Kate Moore, Ruby Coote
Editor: Sonia Estal
Chelsey Peat, 34, from Canada was born with a rare condition known as Sturge Weber syndrome.
The neurological disorder means she has a large port wine stain birthmark covering the left side of her face and has a glaucoma in her eye.
Chelsey’s condition has led to her undergoing multiple surgeries over the years.
This has included brain surgery, where surgeons removed the occipital lobe so Chelsey would stop having seizures as a child.
Doctors told her parents that she had 50% chance of living, and 50% chance of mental instability if she did survive.
Incredibly, Chelsey was only left with a small amount of field vision loss in both eyes and the occasional headache.
Chelsey told Truly: “I beat all the statistics.”
However, Chelsey continued to face difficulties in her childhood, as she was targeted for her physical differences.
“School sucked,” Chelsey explained.
“I didn't really have that social life, I didn't have that date for dances, it was segregation.”
A ‘Chelsea Haters Club’ was even set up at her school.
“It got so bad for a few weeks with my best friends joining in, I had rude notes stuffed in my locker, I had horrible things drawn on my books.”
She has struggled with her mental health because of these experiences.
“It got dark, it got scary,” she said.
“There were times when I didn't want to leave the house.”
And even now, Chelsey finds prejudice when she goes outside.
“The whispering and ogling by grown adults drives me mad,” she continued.
“I've had people actually come up and ask me if it's infectious.
“I've had people ask if my eye is going to pop out of my head and if I need medical assistance.”
Throughout these hard times Chelsey has found her family to be her biggest support.
“They have been my rock. I’ve never felt like I had a birthmark around any of these people.”
And recently, Chelsey was able to attend her first ever solo photoshoot.
It’s something she’s always wanted to do but found it difficult to build up enough self-confidence.
She said: “I'm just starting to warm up to the idea of self-image, being comfortable with yourself and your skin.
“It's hard when you are growing up and society, movies, everything portrays anyone with a facial difference a monster.”
Chelsey is an active member of Sturge Weber support groups on social media.
She speaks to others going through similar experiences – she calls them her “birthmark buddies”.
“Being an ambassador for people with facial differences has given me the strength to do this,” she said while at her photoshoot.
And Chelsey’s mother Ione was there to support her through the experience.
Ione told Truly: “A lot of people don't go through what she's gone through in their whole lifetime.
“And she's able to go to college, have two beautiful children and a marriage.
“She’s helping others, I'm beyond proud.”
Now Chelsey has a different attitude towards those who fixate on her differences: “If you're going to stare, either ask for my autograph or take the damn picture.
“I am perfectly comfortable with how I look right now.”