Gillian Page: My Differences Don’t Define Me
My name is Gillian Page, and I was born with bilateral cleft lip and palate. I have never allowed my difference to define me, and I think that has caused me to grow into the strong person that I am today.
I did not experience much bullying as a child, and I believe that was because I acted like all of the other kids and refused to be treated like a victim. The one thing I remember was when I was very young a classmate said to me, “What’s up with your lip?” I replied, “What’s up with yours?” My family never treated me any differently because of the way I looked or the way I talked; they treated me the same as they would if I didn’t have this difference. Words cannot describe how much of an impact that had on how independent I have become.
Of course, like every other person, I struggled. Sometimes I wonder why was I born this way or what I would be like or look like in a different life, but doesn’t everyone feel that way at some point in their life? One thing my mom has always told me is that everybody is born with something out of the ordinary — some differences are just more noticeable than others. That’s something I constantly tell myself.
I used to try to ignore my cleft when I was young and would get mad at my mom whenever she would mention it, but after becoming more involved in the community and being a volunteer for the Cleft and Craniofacial Center, I have been very open about it. I can proudly tell people I was born with a bilateral cleft lip and palate, and as a babysitter I love the opportunity to teach the kids I watch about these kinds of differences with hopes that they will be more accepting when they meet others who are different in their own ways.
I have realized that having a cleft lip and palate will not stop me from accomplishing my goals or doing the things I love.
-Gillian Page, Barrow Cleft and Craniofacial Center Patient
Although the seemingly endless surgeries, doctor appointments, years of braces, and recovery times are hard to endure, they are all worth it in the end. Being a senior in high school, applying to colleges, and just living my life, I have realized that having a cleft lip and palate will not stop me from accomplishing my goals or doing the things I love. It is a part of me that I am exceptionally proud of every time I look in the mirror because it has contributed to who I am today and the strength that I possess.
No more braces!!
-Gillian Page, bilateral cleft lip and palate
Having a child with a birth defect is scary. You don’t know what to expect. I thought for sure that I would have to be one of those parents that would have to go into the classroom and explain to the other students why my daughter looked a little different.
I’ve never once had to do that.
Gillian Page was born with her courage, I’m sure. But I believe that part of the reason why she has been so strong and confident is because we’ve never treated her like she’s been different than anyone else. I think that’s part of the secret. I think when you treat someone like they’re different then they feel like a victim. That would make them feel insecure and sensitive. We did not do that with Gillian. As a result, she is a confident and successful young lady, and we are proud of her.
-Michelle Page (Gillian’s Mom)