Jono Lancaster was abandoned at birth – but it wasn’t until he turned 24 that he discovered a cruel hospital document that revealed why.
“Both parents were horrified by the child’s appearance. Both parents felt no maternal bond,” the note read.
“Both parents left the hospital 36 hours later, leaving the child behind.”
It confirmed his worst fears – that his biological parents had deserted him due to a genetic disorder that left him with no cheekbones, “Bart Simpson” ears and an underdeveloped jaw.
The rare disorder, Treacher Collins syndrome, impacted the way his facial bones developed while he was in the womb.
Now 38, the British man has overcome dark periods in his life to love his unique look and become a champion for others diagnosed with the condition.
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Speaking to Ladbible, Mr Lancaster opened up about how his birth parents’ actions left him in a dark place during his formative years as he struggled to accept his unique look.
“When I was in college, obviously I didn’t have those words,” he told the publication.
“I was forming the pieces, I was creating the answers, and at that point they left me because I looked different.
“They left me because I looked like this and it destroyed me.”
After a period of “growth and healing” in his early 20s, he had an epiphany at the gym and finally learned to love himself fully.
“I look at my face, and instead of wanting to push my eyes up, I smiled,” he told Ladbible.
“For the first time in I can’t remember how many years, I absolutely loved what I saw.”
He praised his foster mother, who adopted him at a young age and always supported him even through his darkest moments.
Shamefully, his birth parents still had no time for him when he tried to reconnect later on in life.
“It was something I’d always wanted to do. As a teenager I’d been angry and upset and wanted to meet them for the wrong reason – to ask them why they’d abandoned me – but as I matured I realised they obviously felt they couldn’t cope,” he told the BBC in 2010.
“I thought things might have changed. That they might want to know I was happy.”
He said he was left “heartbroken” when they rejected him again, but remarkably still had kind words for the pair.
“It was awful. Awful. I cried and cried. But I have come to terms with it. It must have been one of the hardest decisions they ever had to make.
“I found out they’ve gone on to have two more children. I’m glad they have got a family. I’m happy, I hope they are happy too.”
Today, Mr Lancaster is writing his first book and runs his own charity Love Me Love My Face Foundation, which raises awareness and funds for individuals and families living with Treacher Collins syndrome and craniofacial conditions.
He regularly shares updates on his Instagram account, where he inspires his 230,000 followers with his inspiring outlook on life.