In 2012, when he was 34 years old, Daniel from Kent was diagnosed with stage 4 facial cancer, which resulted in more than 20 reconstructive surgeries.
Learning to come to terms with his disfigurement, he has made it his mission to change society’s view on people with disfigurements and has joined the Be Real Campaign as an Ambassador to give confidence to others.
“I remember the very first time post surgery when I struggled with body image. I had to answer the door and I couldn’t find my eye patch. My eye patch is like the magic cloak which gives me the confidence to face people. The fear of someone seeing me nakedly disfigured was overpowering.
“The biggest challenge feeling comfortable in my skin was to accept that I will always stand out and be an object of comment and sniggers.
“To help me feel more confident in my body I do wear my eye patch, but I also celebrated my altered image by letting my face being used to give confidence to others. The control of how people see me has been my coping mechanism.
“We live in an evolving society which is moving at such a fast pace. Information is shared quickly and easily without any filters. Online social networks, mobile messaging is uncontrollable. People are no longer laughed at behind their backs, it is done directly now albeit from an armchair by complete faceless strangers.
“The challenge of promoting a positive body image is hugely important, and it needs to be everywhere because it is only when the subject isn’t funny anymore that the abuse stops.
“It is only when you see yourself in the mirror and realise you are just you and in every way perfect that you can face the world. It is the minimum any of us should expect from ourselves.
“To tackle negative body image it’s important that we provide opportunities for people with less than ‘perfect’ features or bodies to be shown in a positive way. It is a basic educational understanding, similar to race or gender. We are all humans with feelings and our own opinions, people with different appearances are not objects of shock, or humour. It is only through educational, awareness campaigns that the issue of negative body image perception is challenged.
“If I would be able to speak to my younger self, the 34 year old man who was thankful to be alive but was terrified of what other people might think, it is: Just be yourself, you are perfect the way you are.“
Do you feel inspired by Daniel? Find out how you can become a Be Real Ambassador.