In the work I do I am used to hearing incredibly moving stories. Every one completely different, involving unique challenges. I often think I was ‘lucky’ to get cancer at the age of 51. Having lived a reasonable life and be able to mentally deal with the challenges it threw at me. Quite how I would have dealt with it as a teenager I really don’t know.
This young lady did, and is still dealing with it. Cancer completely changed the way she looked! None of us could begin to imagine how Crystal must have felt, and I am honoured that she has chosen to share her very powerful story with us.
“In 2016, at the end of my teenage years, I was diagnosed with a rare facial bone cancer called Osteosarcoma, and my whole world tipped upside down. I was completing the final year of my acting course and was devastated! Nature had given me this horrible disease that left me without a cheek, nose and upper jaw. I wanted to be one of those famous actresses on TV or movies that looked flawless, talent and beautiful. I never counted myself as pretty growing up, but I had immense talent and drive for the arts and telling stories. I did not seem to mind what I looked like, until 2016.
I struggled a lot with identity between the years 2016 and 2017. I never saw a person like me act on stage, movies or TV shows, and even if they did they were either the villain or wearing prosthetics. I didn’t have the choice to act a facial difference character and then take off the costume when the day was done, I was stuck with my new face for the rest of my life, and that was a lot to process for a 19-year-old girl.
I spent over four years trying to find the love and appreciation for my new face and body. It was a hard four years, but I came through it the other side happier, grateful, and powerful than I’ve ever been. I started to feel grateful for my health, grateful that the cancer was gone and grateful to the people who had helped me on my journey. I started to feel so much gratitude that I began to play with the idea that I should start acting again.
It was hard to move the right side of my face due to my surgery that removed the tumour. I had to relearn how to do facial expressions, act and convey emotions, but I did it, and this motivated me to apply to the top drama school in the UK, LAMDA. The London Academy of Music & Dramatic Art. I applied to them because I wanted to change peoples perceptions of visibly different people forever. People need to see us in roles of being the hero, the romantic interest, the lead and something far removed from a villain.
Being so passionate about this vision, throughout the grueling and intense audition process, I made sure to try my absolute best. I was fighting for myself, the 18-year-old Crystal who thought that she could never act again because she didn’t see herself represented on TV and for all those who got pushed in the back for being visibly different. I was determined to show the dreamers that they could still dream and that no matter what had happened to them in the past they can achieve anything they set their mind to. All they need is an opportunity.
This year I have been accepted into, LAMDA Foundation Diploma course. I only needed someone to believe in me to get this opportunity, and I am so grateful to have had a great support system and drama school that did that. The course is sadly not Government funded. Meaning I have to fund raise for my tuition fees, accommodation and travel to my hospital for check-up appointments. The LAMDA Foundation Diploma is £13,799, and to live in accommodation near the school is £178 per week. All together with the tuition, accommodation, and travel, £25,000 would help me greatly.
The money raised together will help me get the best training needed for me to make a positive impact within the industry. Any money left over will go towards the cancer community who have helped me with this journey. The link to my GoFundMe page is below to donate, share and support with as much as you are able. Thank you so much for taking the time to read this blog post, and please share to those who might be interested in my story. Thank you so very much, Crystal Marshall Twitter: @Faceinosteosar1