By Josh Saunders
A YouTuber with a port wine stain is rejecting treatment because she loves the ‘gecko’ like appearance on her skin.
Shannon Stoner, 35, of McMinnville, Tennessee, has around 80 per cent of her body and the majority of her face covered with the large reddish-purple birthmarks.
She was born with Sturge-Weber Syndrome which caused blood vessels to gather under the surface of her skin, as well as pressure to her eye.
At the age of 12, she started laser treatment to stop the raised skin from thickening which could present more problems.
She has undergone 15 sessions but is trying to reduce the number to a minimum, as each treatment lightens her skin and reduces the appearance of her birthmark – something she loves.
Despite being called ‘gecko’ and told she had ‘Kool Aid on her face’ growing up, she hopes to loves her port wine stain and believes it’s a huge part of her.
Shannon, who runs her own YouTube channel, said: “I was raised like any other kid, I was told from a young age that my birthmarks were angels kisses and that I was made special.
“It reminds me of a barbed wire tattoo on my one arm, then my leg it looks like cheetah spots, and it kind of reminds of a map of Africa and Australia and covers the entire left side of my face.
“My mom told me that a cashier once looked at me and said, ‘Shame your mom couldn’t have washed the Kool Aid off your face’, my mom told her, ‘You know it’s a birthmark, right?’
“One time a little girl kept pestering me and told me I looked like a gecko.
“We are all different, so you may as well roll with it you know, when comments would hurt I would absorb it all and think about it later.
“If I could I would keep as much of my birthmark as possible because it’s such a huge part of who I am.
“I would be a different person completely if I wasn’t gifted with my birthmark and all that comes with it.
“If I wanted to cover it up I could, but i don’t want to use make-up, I like living my life this way, it’s a birthmark not something horrible. I wear my birthmark with pride.”
Shannon believes her upbringing helped her to see her facial difference positively and to dismiss any negative comments she experienced.
She said: “It took me a while to agree to laser treatment because I was scared it would erase my birthmark and that no one would recognise me.
“In my teen years I felt differently but I grew mentally. There are so many things that are much worse than a birthmark.
“When I worked in retail I would deal with a lot of kids, they believed it was a rash as they had gone through rashes before, their parents seemed to be the most disturbed by it.
“It’s not like it’s contagious, the only hindrance I believe is when applying for jobs – I think some people may not have hired me because of my birthmark.”
Shannon is only focussing on having necessary treatment to remove granulomas, which is where sacks of blood fill on her skin and rejecting laser therapy whenever possible.
She documents her journey through YouTube Channel, Life with Spots, she hopes it will be another platform to continue the outreach and awareness raising.
Shannon said: “I want to show people what I go through on a day to day basis.
“There are so many people with birthmarks and it’s way easier to connect now than when I was a kid, you don’t feel as alone anymore.
“Don’t be afraid to go out and live. Don’t worry about what other people think.”