Marena Pacek, Canada, Alberta

I was diagnosed with a venous malformation on my upper thigh at the age of six years old. I was never able to play as hard as the other kids due to the bruising ,swelling and pain in my leg. It’s devastating as a child when you’re stuck in the hospital while all the other kids are out having fun. I had sclerotherapy twice and neither time worked to fix the problem.

Fast forward a few years and my surgeon had decided to preform an embolization. I had been promised that I’d be back on my feet in a few weeks after surgery, but that wasn’t the case. The surgeon had ended up embolizing the wrong vein, killing my skin, muscle and tissue.

I’ve had 14 reconstructive surgeries in the span of six years consisting of skin grafts, tissue expanders, liposuction and fat grafting. My childhood was spent almost exclusively in a hospital, but this isn’t a sad story. My experiences have made me into the person I am today and my scars are what essentially make me, me. Beauty isn’t looking like a Barbie, beauty is our differences. So birthmarks, scars, stretch marks and even acne (the things society has deemed “ugly”) are what truly make us beautiful. My venous malformation has led me down a path that I didn’t think possible, and it means the world to me that I’m able to advocate for young girls like me and help them learn to love themselves inside and out.