Jono Lancaster's life started as a bad dream. His parents abandoned him when he was just an infant because they did not like his appearance.
He has not let this devastating rejection destroy his life. Today, he is a famous speaker and activist, and he is helping people worldwide get more optimistic in the face of various challenges.
Jono suffers from Treacher Collins syndrome. The rare condition affects his hearing and facial structure.
In 2015, Jono shared his story during the Breakthrough Summit by the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD).
During the event, he talked more about his rare condition. Because of the syndrome, he has no cheekbones, and his eyes dip down.
However, he made it clear that he has no problem with how he looks, even if his parents did:
"I love my little ears, they don't get cold at night. But I do need hearing aids."
If anything, Jono feels quite fortunate to have the kind of life he enjoys:
"I'm one of the lucky ones. More severely affected individuals need help with feeding and breathing. I met some kids who've had more than 70 surgeries to correct problems that would make their lives easier."
What Was Jono's Childhood Like?
According to Lancaster, his appearance at his birth left his parents in total shock. They decided to abandon him at the hospital, and social services came to look for him.
They also got in touch with a foster carer called Jean. When Jean was told that a baby had been abandoned at the hospital, she was speechless.
She could not understand how a child would be impossible to love. Eventually, she met Jono, and her question was:
"When can I take him home?"
Although Jono was abandoned so heartlessly, Jean still tried to reconnect him with his biological parents. They were not interested in knowing how he was doing, and the letters they received about his progress came back unopened.
Jean adopted Jono on May 18, 1990, and for this reason, he has two birthdays. He revealed that he would tell other children that his mom went to the hospital and chose him, unlike other kids whose parents had no option but to take them home.
At the age of 25, Jono made another attempt to contact his parents. He figured out that they might not have been as comfortable bringing him up as they were raising the two kids that were born after his birth.
Like every other time he had attempted to get in touch with them, Jono's parents wanted nothing to do with him.
When he was seven, Jono underwent a lot of bullying. Kids would run away from him while saying they did not want to catch his disease.
The mean kids would also pull their eyes down to mock his look. Nevertheless, this was not the worst bullying incident he had.
One day, when he was on a bus with his Jean heading to the museum after a hospital appointment, a couple began making fun of him. Before then, he imagined how lovely the lovers were, and he was even smiling.
From Laughing At Him, To Laughing With Him
Following the bullying incidents, Jono became withdrawn. He began wondering why it had to be him in his teenage years.
He also thought more about his biological parents, who wanted nothing to do with him even though his parents are supposed to love him no matter what. Jono also wondered whether he would ever have a family or someone to love him.
He was desperate to have people like him, and his behavior in class reflected this. He was willing to do whatever it took to have people get into conversations with him about other things besides his face.
Jono hated his face and got angry because there was little he could do to change it. He also revealed that he would avoid looking at his reflection because of the shame he felt over his appearance.
Things got worse when one of his friends turned into one of his bullies. The friend got him a job at the bar where he worked, and everyone there poked fun at his looks.
However, while he was working at the bar, his perspective on things changed.
One day, a man Jono described as a "skinhead" who had "muscles on top of muscles" walked into the bar. He did not want to serve him, but nobody else was stepping up, so he went over to ask the man what he wanted to drink.
However, the man said to him:
"Before you get my drink, I have a question. What's up with your face?"
As people started to snicker, Jono said in a hushed voice: "I was born with Treacher Collins syndrome."
The man said to him, "all right," and Jono responded by saying, "I'm deaf," before showing off his hearing aids.
After that, the man asked whether the hearing aids came with an off switch. The man then said to Jono:
"Damn, you're lucky. I have a wife, and all she does is talk 24/7, and to be able to switch her yakking off…"
At that moment, someone was finally laughing with him rather than laughing at him. This was when he realized that he could "focus on the good."
Life Got Better
As his confidence grew, Jono also started working out at the gym. While there, he met his partner Laura.
He stopped avoiding mirrors, started smiling, and finally believed that life was good.
It did not take long before he started to get attention from the media. He also got into motivational speaking and got a job helping grown-ups suffering from autism.
Jono has even done some modeling, and he hopes that he can inspire people suffering from the same rare medical condition.
Jono has been very open about what changed. He admits that people didn't change, they are still the same.
His parents still don't want anything to do with him.
All that changed was his attitude. He refused to let negativity bring him down and chose to believe in himself.
He is okay with his appearance and does not wish to change anything. Jono discovered that his greatest disability was his attitude.
Today, he knows that the right attitude can make many things possible.