I am a 20-year-old medical student in London and I am troubled by a genetic condition now officially known as hereditary multiple osteochondromas (HMO). This condition is present in only about 1 of 50,000 births and the progression of this disease is such that as a child grows, osteochondromas (non-cancerous bone tumours that appear as bony lumps) will develop and form deformities along various bones. I happen to have these bony outgrowths on my legs, my arms, my chest and my back. I always thought I led a relatively normal life but reflecting on it, I realise that I did go through quite a bit. The medical and psychosocial effects of undergoing about 10 major surgeries to remove these outgrowths as well as a bone cancer scare at the age of 12 (these osteochondromas sometimes turn cancerous), not to mention the pain I suffered from compressed nerves, all left their mark on me.
As puberty hit about 8 years ago, many questions came to my mind: How will my peers accept me? Will I ever find a girl that accepts me? Will I have further surgeries? If I ever have children, will they be affected? Even though I love sport, will my proneness to injury stop me from doing sports? What do people at the beach think when they see my deformed leg? Having a father who suffers from the same condition, works as a doctor and leads a successful family life is an incredible source of support and motivation. Looking at the atrocities in this world and the millions of people unable to live a normal life due to debilitating diseases, I have gradually overcome my fears, completely accepted myself and gained an incredible amount of confidence.
The scars on my body have accumulated over the years and, together with the loss of sensation in my right lower leg due to one of many surgical complications, these represent how I have matured as a person. Coupled with my personal early exposure to doctors and hospitals, I have come to form my dream of becoming a doctor myself. The new-found confidence, resilience and ambition I gained from this disease and the scars it left on me have brought me from a small village in Germany to study at some of the finest institutions across the UK and indeed the world and made me build an extensive social network, where I am perfectly accepted just the way I am.