katieMy name is Katie Arends (29) and I was born with CMN covering both my arms, shoulders and head. Between the ages of two and four, I had several operations to remove some of the larger moles from my arms and shoulders. My mum has always worried about whether she made the right decision but I believe for me that it was.

My mum was introduced to Jodi and her family when I was a few weeks old through the help of Consultant dermatologist Dr Julian Verbov. Throughout the time I had my operations, Jodi and her family provided invaluable support to my parents for which myself and they are extremely grateful.

When I was growing up, I found that younger children were always more accepting of my CMN than the older children and adults. During primary school, if someone would ask why I had marks on my arms I would explain that I was born with them, they would just say ok and no more would be said. However, with older children and adults, they would stare and whisper things, which could be hurtful. My mum has also told me when I was a baby she experienced more problems with adults than anybody else. When I moved to secondary school, I was worried that it would be difficult to make friends, but the school were extremely supportive allowing me to make lifelong friends and enjoy my time there.

As a child, I was always shy about showing my birthmark and scars, but as I got older, it became less important what other people thought as those who really care accept you for who you are. This has helped me be happy with who I am today and allowed me to focus on working hard to achieve my full potential. My parents have always been very supportive of me and have encouraged me to believe anything is possible. My mum once said to me ‘Shoot for the moon and if you fail at least you will fall in the stars’.

Now as an adult, I am thankful to have a great support network around me made up of family and friends from both work and school. For the past 7 years, I have had the privilege to work as a secondary school maths teacher and have been able to draw upon my experiences throughout my life to help the students succeed. I have recently received a promotion to a leadership role which I value greatly as it will allow me to help more people through my role as a teacher.

I really do think it is because of my CMN that I am a stronger person.  Through having CMN I have met many amazing people along the way who I otherwise wouldn’t have had the pleasure to know.

I find it a real privilege to have the opportunity to work with everyone involved with Caring Matters Now and especially supporting our teenaged members.  The charity has a great group of teenagers, who come along to our teen events and get involved in our fundraising campaigns.  If you are a teenager affected by CMN, then please do feel free to contact me anytime.  I’d love to hear from you.  My email address is [email protected]