Having a Cleft Lip & Palate by Fran

I’m delighted to welcome Fran to the blog today, who has contributed a post on growing up with a cleft lip and palate. I’m sure it doesn’t need to be said that her attitude and outlook about her cleft make us very proud of her but it’s great to read how it feels in her own words. Please give her some love for contributing to the #10wks10yrs blog 10 year birthday posts. As an aside, it fascinates me that Fran repeatedly refers to only her palate – I suppose, since it was fixed at 10 days old and was an excellent repair, the lip element of it was never really something she experienced.

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This post is about being a fifteen year old with a cleft palate- well almost fifteen.

When I was born I was diagnosed with a cleft lip and palate which has affected my speech, sometimes I do find it difficult to speak clearly, especially when I have a cold. Generally this doesn’t bother me, but on occasions I have felt slightly under pressure.

For example when I was five and started going to Rainbows people kept asking me why I spoke funny,  I came home and was quite upset because that was the first time that I had felt like my speech was a problem; this was quickly sorted out when my Mummy came and had a  conversation with the whole group about my cleft. I have also had little children comment on how I speak, although that’s been a more recent thing, I have found that it is harder to cope when little kids comment on my speech and I guess that’s because you realise that it is more noticeable than you first think.

When I first started school in year six I was a bit nervous that people would comment on my speech but as far as I remember no one ever commented on it, this boosted my confidence as I made a lot of friends in those seven weeks; sadly I’ve lost contact with them all now. When I started secondary school in year nine I was less nervous of my cleft, partly because I was completely terrified about every other aspect of year nine, but also because by that time worse had happened to me and actually I didn’t really care what people thought about my looks or speech because I knew that I wouldn’t let other people’s opinions change who I was and what things were important to me. Now, in year ten I’ve got good friends who will stick up for me and have stuck up for me when people are being completely unreasonable! They like me for who I am and understand about my cleft and never let me underestimate myself, in fact I am most severely told off if I ever say a word against myself! They have helped me and have definitely made me a better person, as I hope I have done similar to them!

At the end of February I was meant to have an operation to lengthen my palate, this was because my palate wasn’t long enough at the back which was causing air to escape up my nose which meant that I was working extra hard to make certain sounds, this caused my vocals chords to swell up and I wasn’t allowed to sing for a couple of months which I found difficult and frustrating. However I did look after my voice and then my vocal chords did fix. This operation was hopefully going to fix this and make sure that it didn’t happen again, it would have been done by Mr Hall who has treated me since I was a baby and I trusted him to get it right. At first I was very reluctant to have it done because of my previous experience with the bone graph, where I woke up after the operation and was in a lot of pain and incredibly miserable, this operation had to be re-done afterwards because it didn’t work. This made me reluctant to have another operation because I did not want to have to go through that stress again, in the end though I did choose to have it done because I knew it was the right choice. I was incredibly nervous about having it done but knew that it would be just a week of me feeling sorry for myself, we went to the pre-op appointment and that went very well, we were all set to go, but then two days before my operation Amelie was sick and we decided that it was best not to have the operation. I was completely gutted because I had just psyched myself up to have it done and I would rather have had it done than not have it done, but we knew that if I was sick just after my operation I would just be completely beside myself so hopefully I will be having it later in this year.


Next month I will turn fifteen, having a cleft palate has had its ups and its down but I don’t mind, it’s part of me and actually I wouldn’t change it, it makes me different from most people and for me, that’s fine.

 

Comments

  1. mrspeatster says

    What a lovely piece of writing. Thank you Fran for your honesty, what an amazing person you are! Hope you can get another date for your op soon.

  2. Liz says

    Wow I can’t believe that you are 15. I’ve followed your mum’s blog etc as a fellow home educator for years and your family are a true inspiration. It’s lovely to read about what you have been doing and also to read your first person account now.

    Little children do tend to ask about all sorts. I think the reason though is more because they are just learning about things so they are truthful and honest and haven’t learned ‘social graces’. Any difference is a reason for them to ask due to their natural curiosity. As hard as that (if not frustrating or exhausting at times) is I would think the best way is to be truthful and honest to them. If something is new to them and they learn about it then that will be a piece of knowledge and experience they will carry all through their life which will make them more aware and hopefully more empathic. I really don’t think most little children comment because they are mean but simply because they may never have experienced something before and they are constantly trying to learn.

    Older children – no excuse though (other than meanness and a sheer stubbornness to remain ignorant – bah!). I hope that as you continue in your life more people are kind and respectful than mean to you.

  3. says

    That is a great piece of personal writing. From the heart and clearly explained from your unique stance. Thank you for sharing and good luck with the op later in the year.

  4. Nikki Scott says

    Fran, thank you so much for this mature and honest insight into life with a cleft palate. Your wonderful attitude will definitely be an asset to you throughout your life. It is your positive outlook and beautiful nature that will ensure that you always have good, loyal friends as you have found at school. You are such a beautiful, amazing girl and I know how proud your family must be of you – you are an absolute credit to them. I hope that when it comes time for your operation later in the year you will once again feel strong and ready for it and that nobody will get sick this time! :-) xx

  5. lynne says

    Thanks a lot for sharing that Fran; as a mother of three girls’ with a bilateral cleft lip and palate you have given me great reassurance that the teenage years do not have to prove miserable! My eldest just had her bone graft several weeks ago, which hopefully went well. Two of mine needed a pharyngoplasty which greatly improved their speech.

    Can I ask why your op was so delayed if you had issues with speech from early childhood? Was this your decision or did your consultant not deem it neccessary? Both mine had theirs before they turned 4.

    Again many thanks x

    • says

      Not sure for the delay particularly other than that the problem is slight and her face has been quite slow to grow (she still has some baby teeth) so they didn’t want to do it too soon.

  6. says

    I loved this post Fran. You write really well! I was born with a cleft palate too, as well as a syndrome called Marshall Stickler Syndrome. I’m absolutely fine as well, and while the operations (when I was much younger) were hard at the time, I wouldn’t change who I am for the world. I’m glad you feel the same. xxx

  7. says

    I’ve only met your mum once, Fran, and thought she was a lovely lady so it comes as no surprise that her daughter should be the same.
    A fascinating account of living with a cleft palate. Thanks so much for sharing your feelings.

  8. Katia says

    Fran, I found your post very honest and courageous and I think that if today you are the young girl that you are, straight forward and full of determination it’s also partly due to the emotions you had to go through. Physical problems, although painful, are really unimportant when they bring out these qualities in somebody’s life. On top of that having good friends taking care of us is always a blessing and helps immensely. Keep up the good work and all the best for your operation later on in the year!