19-year-old Ciera Swaringen is from Rockwell, North Carolina. She was born with mole-like birthmarks that cover her from head to toe.
The rare condition is called Giant Congenital Melaocytic Nevus and it affects just one in 500,000 people worldwide. The condition causes over-sized moles or birthmarks to appear on the body.
Swaringen’s largest birthmark stretches from her lower thighs up to her navel.
Unfortunately, since Swaringen was small, she has had to endure the teasing and cruel remarks from strangers, but now she is learning to embrace the way she looks.
“Teenage boys are usually the first ones to comment when they see me,” she said to the Daily Mail. “They say things like, ‘You look like you're dirty, take a wash.’”
“But I'm so proud to be different and, at the end of the day, we all have something about us that's unusual, whether it's on the inside or the outside.
“Everyone is born to look different, and we're should all feel beautiful in our own skin.”
Swaringen currently works at a shoe store and recently graduated from high school. She says it has not been easy for her to look past the negative comments she receives about her birthmarks.
She told the Daily Mail: “One day I remember being on the school bus and hearing a young boy laugh at me and call me a spotty dog.
“That really knocked my confidence, I was only young and it made me feel different to the other kids, like something was wrong with me.”
She continued: “Over time I've learnt to brush off negative comments and remember that most people stare and say cruel things because they're not used to seeing someone with my condition.
“People in my town don't bat an eye when they see me now, as they know me. But if I go somewhere new, it's not so easy.”
When Ciera was born, her dark, birthmark-spotted skin stunned both medical staff at Stanley Memorial Hospital in Albermarle, North Carolina and her parents. Her parents, David, 55, and Julie, 41, took her to Carolinas Medical Centre in Charlotte, North Carolina and they looked over her birthmarks coming to the conclusion that they didn’t pose a risk. She then went home with her parents and four older sisters.
Now, Ciera is unable to remove her birthmarks because there are so many – and the number continues to increase.
“My birthmarks are constantly growing and I often get new ones, but I'm hoping that will slow down as I leave my teenage years behind,” she told Daily Mail.
And now Ciera has found support online as well.
She recently did a high school project on her skin condition which led to her discovery of online groups run by Nevus Outreach. It is an organization that aims to support those with skin conditions.
“Discovering groups on Facebook has helped me realise that I'm not alone,” she said to the Daily Mail.
“I'm hoping I will be able to attend a Nevus Outreach conference, so I can meet other people with my condition.”