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Teen with Hundreds of Birthmarks Is 'Proud to Be Different'

The Short of It

Bullied as a child for her hundreds of large birthmarks, a North Carolina teen is now embracing her body.

The Lowdown

Born with Giant Congenital Melanocytic Nevus, a rare condition that causes large mole-like birthmarks to cover her entire body, 19-year-old Ciera Swaringen of Rockwell, N.C., was bullied at school and taunted by strangers.

"Teenage boys are usually the first ones to comment when they see me," she told MailOnline. "They say things like, 'You look like you're dirty, take a wash.' ... 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."

Her condition, which covers more than two-thirds of her body, affects just one in 500,000 people. Her largest mark stretches from her lower thighs to her belly button. The birthmarks can't be removed because there are so many and they continue to grow, but they don't pose a health risk, as long as she uses plenty of sunscreen to protect her against her higher chance of developing skin cancer.

"Over time I've learned 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," she said. "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 should all feel beautiful in our own skin."

The Upshot

Ciera's parents have taught her that having a genetic condition doesn't define who anyone is as a person.

"I remember when I started school, my mom told me that my birthmarks were angel kisses, and that really stuck with me," she said. "And my dad is the first person to stand up to defend me if anyone says anything horrible to me."

"There have been times when people's ignorance has gotten to her, with their comments or stares, but all and all, she has stood strong," said Ciera's mother, Julie. "Ciera is a beautiful young lady with a great personality, and I couldn't be more proud of her. She is one of the strongest people I know."

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