My story by Ryan (with a little help from mum)

I was born on the 10th December 2003 with CMN and NCM. My birthmark covers my bum and I have hundreds of smaller moles all over my body. The moles on my brain also cause me to have learning disabilities and I also have ASD. I have difficulty with my working memory, and this gets really frustrating for me.

I’ve always been a water baby! I hated playing with toys when I was younger, as I always preferred to splash with water or tip water in the sink! When I was 8 years old my mum took me swimming and I loved it! I used to get lots of stares and people would say nasty things about my skin, but this only made me stronger and I wanted to prove to people that I could swim. I joined a swim team and began to train twice a week.

I managed to get my 25-metre badge when I was 9! I carried on trying hard and not letting my health issue get me down. I spent a lot of time in hospital, but always bounced back.

Last year I was bitten by a tick and this caused me to become really poorly. I’m a lot better now after a long course of medication but I have been left with another illness called chronic idiopathic urticarial. This illness causes my skin to itch all over and I get a red burning rash. Unfortunately, temperature change triggers this off and as I get hot during swim training, I sometimes get the rash all over which effects my training, but I won’t let it stop me.

I am now 14 and train 6 times a week. Recently I have been selected to represent England on the para swimming talent programme. I compete in the S 14 category which is for swimmers with an intellectual disability. I recently won the junior nationals 100m backstroke and gained 3 silvers in other events.

I have two major competitions coming up this year which I am training hard for. This means I have to get up at 4am in the morning to get to the pool for 5am start! I am the youngest member of my swim training group and also the only one with CMN. Sometimes it’s hard for me as people still stare at me especially when I have my swimming trunks on, but it’s boring to look normal and I like to be different.

5 years ago at 14

There is a big competition coming up next year in Brisbane Australia, which I am aiming to get selected for. The competition is called the Global Games. This is just an event for elite athletes with learning disabilities. I can’t wait to swim and represent GB. My aim is to get to the Paralympics when I’m older and I’ll try my very best to get there!

Since then,

Unfortunately, Brisbane Australia did not happen due to COVID however Ryan now represents Preston and he’s on the talent pathway for World Class Podium Potential. He has just competed at the Para Swimming World Series and won gold in the 100m breaststroke! He is still training 8 times a week with 3 land training sessions and working hard for the British Summer Meets, he is now ranked 8th in the world!!

Ryan did go through a stage of wanting some of his smaller CMN on his face and back removed, which he did go through with, but now he regrets his decision. Ryan is comfortable in his skin and is not bothered by people if they do say something about his CMN.
Having been involved in sport from a young age has definitely helped his confidence. We spend a lot of time supporting a hospice, so he sees poorly people often and is happy he’s healthy and able to do so well and makes the most of his time doing what he loves. I’m so happy he’s a determined young man who likes to show people that you can dream big if you put your mind to it!

“I have the power within me to overcome any and all adversity and nothing or no one can slow me down or hold me back…
I am unstoppable”