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When Ciera Swaringen's parents, both from North Carolina, held their daughter in their arms for the first time, they got a huge shock: the baby was covered in dark spots.
Ciera was diagnosed with congenital melanocytic nevus. Because of this skin condition â€” that only affects around one in 500,000 â€” her entire body is covered with large liver spots and birthmarks. The largest one covers the entire area between her thighs and her belly button. The doctors say that these marks on her skin are not dangerous, but that they are too numerous to remove. ''They are constantly growing and I always get new ones,'' said Ciera.
Her parents have lovingly named the spots ''angel kisses.'' But out in public, people often stare at Ciera, or even bully her. ''I remember how a boy laughed at me in the school bus and called me a â€˜dalmatian,''' she recounted. ''That really gnawed at my self-confidence. I was so young and I always felt so different from the other children, as if something was wrong with me.''
Other kids would hurl insults such as, ''You look dirty, take a shower!'' But once Ciera got a bit older, she refused to let horrible remarks bring her down.
''I learned over time that people stare and say terrible things because they aren't used to what I look like,'' Ciera said. ''I am so proud to be different! We all have something weird about us, whether it's inside or outside.''
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