Hi, my name is Frances and I am a 19 year old female singer/songwriter from Yorkshire & here is my CMN story. For the beginning of my life I can’t really remember too much, so I asked my mum to write her version of events of my upbringing and the struggles she had to face with me having CMN. Here is what she wrote…
My name is Donna, my husband is called Robert, and we have two beautiful daughters: Frances and Alexandra, not forgetting Harvey our little dog.
Before Frances was born, Robert and I had just bought our first house; we were very excited but had a lot of work to do. We both worked fulltime but were surrounded by good family and friends who were helping us to get the house into shape. We got our due date for Frances on the 4th January 1994. My pregnancy went well and I had no problems throughout.
We had just got settled into our new home in the early hours of Christmas Eve when Frances decided to come early and I went into labour. Everything was quite natural at birth, but half way through the labour my heart beat increased and Frances’s heartbeat was faint. She was born at 2:55am and they laid her on my stomach but quickly took Frances away to be checked by doctors. The next thing I remember was Robert sitting next to me, holding her in his arms, crying. At this point I didn’t know what was wrong, as the medication they gave me to relax me during birth was only just wearing off.
I was then told she had marks on her body and that a doctor would come round to see me to explain it all that morning. But when he came round he had a team of people with him, he pulled the curtain open from around us. I could see all the other mums looking and remember thinking she isn’t in a zoo, as I laid there feeling very venerable. I hadn’t seen the marks at this point as I was too scared to look, but she was very beautiful with big blue eyes and lots of black spiky hair. I was then told she had a condition named CMN and was told the next stages of the procedure. I was unsure of the procedure and blamed myself for the condition, but never understood why as I’ve never had drugs or smoked and never drank throughout the whole pregnancy. I felt resentment towards other mums who did any of those things whilst pregnant and had babies that turned out fine; not that I would wish this on anybody but it was hard for me to understand why it had happened to me.
Frances had her first operation at just 6 weeks old G dermabrasion of the bum and thighs, which is where the top layer of the nevus is removed and her bum is left raw. We couldn’t touch Frances due to any infection and it was a very scary time for us. They had to give her morphine for the pain and I remember one night they phoned me from the hospital to inform me Frances had stopped breathing but was now stable again. The following day I, Robert, my mum, sister and brother all came to see Frances and the machine that she was attached to started going crazy. I fetched the nurse who explained to us that the machines can be temperamental and then it went back to normal again. However within five minutes the machine went crazy again and I ran to get the nurse who then told us all to get out of the room quickly, as they had to get the crash team in and take Frances into another room. We weren’t allowed to see her until they had warmed her body back up again. They finally brought her out of the room attached to a drip and we were informed that she had reacted to the morphine they had given her. From that point on, the only pain killer she could have was paracetamol. Later that year, on two different occasions, she had two tissue expanders to remove the nevus. They thought Frances was remarkable as she recovered so quickly.
The following year Frances had a further three tissue expanders and they were all very successful. However the last tissue expander got very infected and had opened up which left Frances with an infected hole in her back which was very unpleasant. This then, when treated, left a nasty scar on her lower back. We then noticed as she was getting older more marks started to appear on her face, arms and legs and was told by the doctor that this would keep happening up until the age of 18 or when she was fully grown.
In 1997 Frances’s little sister was born and didn’t have CMN. We weren’t sure how Frances would react to her but she loved her straight away. We never treated Frances any differently because of her condition.
I remember taking Frances and Alexandra on their first holiday when Frances was just 4 years of age. There was a talent competition where we were staying and Frances told me off because I hadn’t entered her in it. I explained she was too young but she went straight to the entertainers and entered herself singing a rendition of the Spice Girls – “Stop Right Now”. She got up and performed the number and we were in complete shock, as we didn’t even know she knew all the words and everyone was on their feet applauding her. We knew from then on she was going to be very successful.
A year later we all went on our second holiday and I remember a little boy calling her mucky and his Dad just sitting there not even telling him off. Then there was a woman pointing at her in the pool and talking to another woman. It upset me that people could be so rude and this was the moment when Frances realised she was different.
When Frances attended junior school, she would always ask if she could change behind a curtain for P.E or sports day and hated wearing shorts. When she finally went up to high school, Frances was bullied in her first few years on several occasions and name calling would sometimes become a daily thing. She was taunted verbally; followed home; filmed on phones whilst older years would push her and call her name. If she took a different route after school there were still groups of bullies there. This became very intense for Frances and knocked her confidence a lot G joining high school is hard enough without becoming an easy target for all the year groups to pick on at every given chance.
From this part of Frances’s story she knows the version of events much better than me, so I shall let her take it from here…
I told my parents about the bullying as it was only getting worse and I hated going to school. I asked them not to come into school, as at that age I felt embarrassed by the whole situation. However when my mum heard about the events she rang up the school straight away. They said they would sort it but never did and the bullying just continued. When my mum was told it hadn’t been sorted she was forced to inform the police G especially when she heard I was being filmed whilst crying and getting bullied on my walks home. The police then told her to ring the school one last time to inform them that the police knew. Once she had done this the bullies were then pulled aside straight away. One of them turned out to be an A* student in the older years, so this came as a huge shock to the school.
I had put up with the bullying for the first two years of school and whilst all this was happening, I put my emotion and passion into my singing and acting. I joined theatre groups, auditioned for acting agencies and was becoming known for my talents at the high school. I performed many lead roles and performances around theatres and in school, and was even put forward for TV series. Focussing on what I wanted to achieve really took my mind off the bullying and made me a stronger person, whilst it helped me to meet new friends and gain confidence.
At the age of 14 going on 15 I was told I could have my moles shaven off, making them less visible ( a type of dermabrasion), so I did it at the word go and ended up having 163 removed. I was bedridden for a while but was due to perform the lead role of ‘Rizzo’ in a professional performance of Grease at the theatre. I was told it was too soon to do anything but after being bedridden for so long and my marks healing over I decided to do it anyway. Everyone couldn’t believe I was already back at it, but the show went amazingly and I coped no problem.
After this I went onto song writing and learnt to play the piano. I uploaded YouTube videos of myself singing covers and got myself into recording studios to put emotion and past experiences into the songs I was writing. I started performing in local pubs, clubs and venues as well as continuing my acting in school. I would stay behind at school to make sure I got all my grades in Maths, English, Science and all my other lessons and I had already passed my drama A level before my last year of school, which meant during my last year I was studying the same level of acting as the 6th formers.
I was putting my heart and soul into my education and my hobbies as I wasn’t going to let my past beat me or get me down, I felt I had even more to prove to everyone. I was getting top grades and really making a local mark for myself with my talents.
After high school I auditioned for a performing arts college and got a place. This brought me into vocational training, which meant long hours, intense work out sessions, strict teachers and training to a very high standard of performance level. I did this for two years and at the time of my big exams my mum told me about The Voice UK auditions, a new TV series coming to BBC. I went in for the audition and got down to the final 100 out of 28 thousand candidates, from this I got to the final 40 out of the 100 and went to the TV auditions. I got chosen for team Will.i.am – a multi-platinum producer/songwriter and rapper from America G and I made it all the way to the quarter finals. During this time I was juggling my school work and revising whilst backstage or at rehearsals. I passed my exams with A* and learnt a lot from my time on the show. I then focused on getting myself playing at top events alongside big names like, One Direction, stooshe, Labrynth, Little Mix and many more, in front crowds as big as 70 thousand people.
I turned down my university offer as I am now writing my own material for a possible future album. I am back and forth between London and my hometown, trying to gather the right team of people around me who can help me succeed in my career and the right producers to help me get the sound I want for my songs.
Don’t ever feel afraid to talk to family or close friends about what you’re going through and make sure you put your emotion into something you want to achieve, as this all helps you gain strength from the struggles you face and helps you to grow as a person.
This is the first time I have ever publically shared my story but I want to inspire anyone with CMN G or any other condition for that matter G because as cliché as it sounds, you really can do anything you want when you put your mind to it. I am still left with many marks & nasty scars on my body but I have never let my condition get the better of me. As hard as it has been, and as much as it is even a struggle to this day, I am more determined than ever and you should be too!