Author with Treacher Collins Syndrome Abandoned as a Baby, Now 'Full of Self Love'
Jonathan “Jono” Lancaster has penned a book, Not All Heroes Wear Capes, about his journey
Jonathan "Jono" Lancaster was only 36 hours old when his parents abandoned him.
"My birth parents were horrified by my appearance," the West Yorkshire, England, resident tells the BBC. "My birth parents left 36 hours after I was born."
Lancaster was born with a rare genetic condition known as Treacher Collins syndrome, which affects the development of facial bones and tissues. The Mayo Clinic explains that most people with TCS have "underdeveloped facial bones, particularly the cheek bones, and a very small jaw and chin."
His condition is something Lancaster speaks openly – and often humorously — about.
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"I call them my little Bart Simpson ears," he tells the BBC, explaining how the condition has manifested for him. "I don't have any cheekbones so my eyes appear the way that they are."
Lancaster found a loving home with a social worker named Jean, who fostered him and other children with disabilities. But Lancaster, who was adopted at age 5, says that his happy childhood memories are often marred by his struggle to accept his appearance.
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"Looking back at high school, I have so many amazing memories, but behind those moments there was me trying my best to fit in," he said. "The older kids would pull their eyes down. They would sing or make chants up about myself."
"As I got older and people started getting into relationships that kind of didn't really happen for me, and that's when I developed so much hate for my face."
Lancaster said he was in a "really, really dark and angry place" when he thought about his birth parents, so he wrote them a letter.
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"A couple of weeks later we got a letter back, and it simply said, 'We do not wish any contact. Further attempts will be ignored.' And both of them had signed it," he said. "Being rejected by those two people again, it hurt."
But it took another schoolyard incident to help Lancaster see his true calling.
Lancaster said he was giving a talk at a school about his condition when he was approached by some children. "A couple of kids came running over and they were like, 'Jono, Jono, Jono, can you show us your hearing aid?' 'Jono, Jono, I live with my grandparents.' 'Jono, I don't know my mom and dad.' 'Jono, I get bullied because of x,y, and z.'"
"Right there, in that playground, I was like, I need to do more of this."
Lancaster went on to found the Love Me Love My Face Foundation, which supports and raises awareness for those living with craniofacial conditions.
He also discusses how the media portrays those with facial differences on his Instagram, praising the depictions in Edward Scissorhands and decrying those in Netflix's The Mother.
"It's very common that a movie would use somebody with a visible difference and they will have them playing the bad guy," he said in an Instagram post. "Villains, monsters, evil creatures…It has such a negative impact on you."
And next month, Lancaster's first book, Not All Heroes Wear Capes, hits shelves.
"It's about the heroes that I've met in my life, and how ultimately, I became my own biggest hero," he told the BBC. "Truth is, my life has been full of a lot of love and a lot of adventure."
And as he said in his Instagram post revealing the book cover, he hopes the book, which is about chance encounters with strangers and other people in his life, inspires people.
"Ultimately, you can become your own biggest hero," he said. "That's what this book is about. Becoming your own hero, full of self love."
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