It’s hard to imagine any parent abandoning their child for any particular reason, but unfortunately, that’s what Jono Lancaster’s parents did to him shortly after he was born. Their reason was simply because their son had a condition that made him too ugly in their eyes. Clearly they needed to have their eyes checked as they’re the ones with an attitude that was truly ugly. Now it’s tough enough being a regular kid in today’s world, but having your parents turn their backs on you can be devastating. But despite this, Jono has found a way to overcome the emotional scars of his childhood, so he could help others living with his condition lead a happy life.
Jono has been living with Treacher Collins Syndrome for over 30 years.
Unfortunately, he was born with this condition which caused him to go through life with facial deformities. But that certainly hasn’t stopped him from living life to the fullest and in the process, help others to accept their differences too.
Jono’s story will simply amaze you once you realize what he’s had to endure.
After all, unlike other children, Jono was born without certain facial bones, which caused a great deal of deformation in his appearance. It also caused him to suffer from certain hearing impairment.
Despite this, he found a way to stay positive throughout his childhood and into adulthood.
But obviously that wasn’t easy. What was even worse was the fact that his parents had abandoned him 36 hours after he was born. Their only excuse for such a vile act is that they didn’t like the way that he looked.
Jono Lancaster / Facebook
But Jono’s not crying over the proverbial spilled milk because he considers himself lucky in many ways.
Especially since, unlike him, most people suffering from Treacher Collins require as many as 80 separate surgeries throughout their lifetimes just to have a semi-normal existence free of discomfort.
While it’s true that he wasn’t like other boys, he certainly didn’t deserve to get dumped onto social services.
Fortunately, there are a lot of kindhearted people in the world, and Jean Lancaster was one of them. The woman wound up adopting Jono into her family and giving him the life he deserved.
Growing up with Jean was a breeze at home, but things weren’t exactly perfect in school.
Students would look away or down on the floor or simply run away when they saw his face. Some even warned other classmates that he had a disease that they’d catch if they got too close to him.
But Jono didn’t really understand why kids were being so cruel to him, so he asked his adoptive mom.
When Jean heard how the kids in school were rejecting her son, she started to cry, which made Jono feel guilty for breaking her heart.
When Jono became a teenager, he behaved like most teens do at that age, and rebelled.
But that’s typical, especially when you’re having a rough time fitting in. So not only did he get depressed, but he lashed out. Unfortunately, he didn’t care who he acted out against, and the included the people who loved him.
Treacher Collins Syndrome affects one in 10,000 children in the UK alone, and unfortunately, Jono was one of those unlucky few.
So, since the condition affected the way his facial bones and tissues developed, his face took on a drooping effect. Now the disease can sometimes affect breathing, but it rarely affects intelligence. Best of all, most people with this condition get to lead a long life.
But Jono was determined to lead a normal life and ignore those who wanted to ridicule or harm him.
So he applied for his first job at a bar, which a friend of his helped him to get. Finding work hadn’t been easy because of his condition. But although the job had initially seemed like a blessing, it wasn’t exactly an easy ride either.
Jono got a stern lecture from his boss at a bar when he thought people were laughing at him because of his face.
For the most part, the patrons at the bar were genuinely kind and in some cases, interested in learning about his condition. But on occasion there were a couple of drunks whom he admits were horrible to him.
Then he decided that he was done feeling sorry for himself, despite how some people might continue to react.
Jono eventually discovered the positive effect of laughter after a skinhead jokingly told Jono that he was lucky to be deaf because he wouldn’t hear his wife complaining about the way he looked.
In the end, Jono realized that his attitude had been the most disabling thing in his life, not his face.
He realized that with the right attitude, he had the power to achieve just about anything that he wanted, and he did. He became an incredible inspiration to others dealing with this crippling disease and it’s enriched his life in so many ways.
Although his job at the bar didn’t work out, he found another job at a gym after earning his diploma in sports science.
He started working as a fitness instructor at Fitness First, which ultimately gave him the major confidence boost he so desperately needed to get on his life.
It turns out that working at Fitness First was really life changing because that’s where he found true love.
Her name was Laura Richardson and he met the 20-year-old beauty at Fitness First. But although she noticed his face at first, she eventually looked beyond the deformity and admitted that it didn’t matter to her anymore. The couple eventually bought a home together and are now very happy.
Today, Jono works as an inspirational teacher to educate others about Treacher Collins Syndrome.
But a few years ago, he was asked to travel to Australia to meet a (then) 2-year-old Zachary Walton, who also suffers from Treacher Collins and looks up to Jono as a hero.
In fact, Jono does a whole lot of traveling to different parts of the world to help inspire these kids.
It only takes a moment for kids like Zachary to spend time with Jono to feel empowered and happy because they see in him what they could eventually become.
Coping and acceptance is essential for those with this disease and the family of these children.
This is why Jono often shares his experience with these children and with the parents as well, so that everyone can have a little hope that everything will be okay in the end.
It took Jono 23 years to accept his face, and now with the help of other foundations, he can reach out to others to help them do the same.
His hope now is to help spread awareness through foundations like the Love Me, Love My Face Foundation so that others never have to endure bullying or feel isolated and abandoned like he was.
The Love Me, Love My Face Foundation has thrown lots of fundraising and awareness parties to benefit those with Treacher Collins.
BBC Three even ran a special to talk about Jono’s inspiring work to teach people with this condition to love themselves and in the process to help provide support for these children as well as their families.
Ultimately, change comes from within and no one can give that to you, all they can do is inspire you.
This is something that Jono very much wants to do, which is why he points out how important it is to not let all that negative energy bring you down if you have this condition. But he’s also living proof of how the right attitude can help you achieve anything.
Fortunately, Jono has encountered parents who are willing to help their children instead of abandoning them.
This is a far cry from his parents who refused to see him despite an attempt made by his adoptive mom Jean when he was 5 years old. When he grew older, he used social media to track his biological parents down and learned that he had two other siblings. But unfortunately, his bio-parents rejected him once again. Their loss in our opinion.
Some children who suffer from Treacher Collins often undergo years of reconstructive surgery.
They also suffer from a tracheotomy, like this little girl, meaning that their airway is compromised and have to be monitored around the clock so that they can breathe.
Jono has quickly become an inspiration to a lot of children who are growing up the way he did.
So he tries to spend as much time with them as possible and doesn’t mind reaching out to more and more cases as they present themselves.
Jono Lancaster’s story of overcoming discrimination has been beyond heartwarming and educational.
But he’s on a mission and there’s nothing to suggest that the British activist is going to stop traveling from his home in the UK to Australia to help children like him out. He has already left a support system for children and parents in Australia, New Zealand, and even America so that in his own words, “these kids don’t need to grow up feeling so alone.