Kelly’s Story – The Times, 25 February 2006

Reproduced from The Times. 25th February 2006.

Kelly Smith, 21, lives in Yorkshire.  Aged 15, she had a rare form of cancer which necessitated the removal of one eye and some of the tissue around it.

BEFORE: Luckily, they got all the cancer. Afterwards it was a question of searching to find out how we could fix it. When I went back to school, I did get a few idiots saying: ‘You look like an alien’ and stuff like that. My nan made me patches – all fancy ones with diamantes and sequins, with different patches to match outfits. A prosthesis would mean having four titanium screws fitted, which I didn’t want. My doctor is brilliant. He said: ‘You’ll have to get used to one thing: I can never give you an eye, you have to face that. But I can do my best to make you look as good as having a real eye.’ I knew, of course, but it was hard when it hit home.

AFTER: It used to really go inwards, like a crater, whereas the way he has made it now (using skin from the mouth and blood vessel from an arm) it just looks like I’ve got a black eye.

THE FUTURE: We’re reconstructing the eyelids, and in the end I should have a false eye, which means more operations. I want to get this over first, then get a job, make something out of my life.I don’t know, I might study beauty therapy again.

The Times also discussed judging on appearances…

Before we rush to condemn, we need to acknowledge that while everyone knows you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, we all do. Saving Faces, a charity working with people disfigured by injuries, disease or birth defects – people who surely the most hardline sceptics would not insist should live with the hand (or face) life has dealt them – has commissioned telling research into the impact of appearance on our lives. In one survey, people were shown a series of mugshots and asked to comment on the subject’s characters. The mugshots combined ‘before’ and ‘after’ portraits of people treated for disfigurements with a selection of ‘normal’ faces, so that the respondents believed each portrait represented a different individual. The results demonstrated how much we are wired to make fast judgement of people by their faces. For in every question, from how bright to how violent someone might be, the ‘before’ pictures performed poorly compared with the other sets. Handsome is as handsome is?

Some of the women featured here have been treated for the kind of disfigurements Saving Faces is concerned with. Others have undergone procedures offered by the burgeoning commercial sector to address the anxieties many women have about their appearance…. Indeed, according to Iain Hutchison, chief executive of Saving Faces and the surgeon who has done so much to restore the face and the confidence of Kelly Smith, the connection between our appearance and low self-esteem frequently begins in the playground. After those early lessons, perhaps our harshest critic is often the one we face in the mirror every day.