There are many different kinds of love. Some tend to be very delicate and fragile, such as romantic love and platonic love. They can often break down easily. That’s why the divorce rate is so high, and why so many people leave their old friends behind as they progress into a new stage in their life.
The love that parents have for their children, however, is supposed to be unconditional. Parents often speak about the profound love they have for their children from the day they are born. They know even before their kid has developed their own unique personality, that they will love him or her forever.
However, not all children are born equal, and many are simply not as fortunate as others. For whatever their reasoning, some children are born into this world with parents who simply don’t love them at all. In some more extreme cases, the parents don’t just feel a lack of love for their kids, but they go as far as to feel disgust and regret.
Jono Lancaster was one of these unfortunate children. He was born with Treacher Collins syndrome, which is a rare genetic disorder that affects how the tissue and bones in the face develop while the baby is still in the womb.
At the 2015 NORD Breakthrough Summit, Jono explained;
“I was born with a genetic condition that affects my facial features. I have no cheekbones, and so my eyes dip down. I love my little ears, they don’t get cold at night. But I do need hearing aids.
The disorder results in permanent facial disfigurement, however, it has no bearing on the child’s mental or emotional capacities.
Unfortunately, Jono’s own parents couldn’t come to terms with the fact that their child had the disorder. So, just 36 hours after his birth, they decided they didn’t want him and that henceforth they wanted no relationship with him whatsoever.
At the 2015 Nord Conference, he revealed:
“When I was born, [my birth parents] were in total shock. I was out of the hospital 36 hours after I was born. Social services found someone to look after me. The foster carer was a lady called Jean.”
Jean tried everything to reconnect Jono with his birth parents and even sent them letters. However, these letters were returned to her without any form of reply. As a result, Jean decided to adopt Jono herself.
Initially, Jono struggled to cope with his disorder and the way the people around him reacted to it. In an interview with Adelaide Now, Jono explains:
“I kind of felt like I was on my own, and I felt like I was the only one out in the world that was like me. People are lucky enough to win the lottery or they become professional footballers, doctors, lawyers, but, why did I have to end up looking like this?”
Jono began to feel depressed at being treated differently to others around him. He was desperate to develop real and genuine friendships with people.
“I was desperate to have friends, I’d do anything. I had no confidence. I’d buy lots of sweets and give them to the other kids so that they’d like me.
I ended up doing stupid things so that people would talk about me for a different reason to the way I looked.
I set a firework off in class, I got up to no good. It was quite often alcohol related, I got quite a bad reputation amongst other mums and teachers.”
Eventually, Jono decided he could either let the pain and the loneliness eat away at him or actually do something about it. So, he now travels around the globe visiting kids with all kinds of disabilities.
When he was back in his hometown of Normanton, West Yorkshire, he met the love of his life, Laura. Jono says the pair hit it off straight away, and the loving couple now share a home together.
Jono would love to start a family of his own, but his genetic disorder means there’s a 50% chance his child would also be born with Treacher Collins.
“I’ve met families with babies with various disabilities and seen how well they cope,” he told BBC News. “I really want to do the school run, take my child to dance, gymnastics or football, but how can I knowingly put my child through operations, hospital appointments and bullying?
Jono currently works with kids who have autism, and has inspired many people around the world to pursue their dreams in spite of the discouragement they may have received along the way. He’s a very inspirational young man, who has proven that just because you’re born disadvantaged, it doesn’t mean you have to live the rest of your life that way. We wish him and Laura the best of luck for their future together.