Every mom remembers the moment she held her baby for the first time, looking down at the swaddled newborn with the most love she has ever felt in her heart. But for Stephanie Brown, from Fenstanton in the U.K., that moment of bliss was overshadowed when she noticed something unusual on her baby’s back.
The new mom had spotted something not quite right on her son Oliver’s skin. “It was at birth, when he was given to me, that I noticed that there was a purple mark,” she told SWNS TV.
Brown then realized the mark stretched all the way down her son’s back. At first, though, she thought it was just a bruise. But she found out that, instead, it was a large mole.
In the grand scheme of things, being born with a mole didn’t set Oliver apart from the fray. Indeed, approximately one in every 100 babies is born with such markings. These moles may shift color and shape over time, and they can appear and disappear too. And so when a mole appears on a newborn baby, doctors won’t worry too much.
But Oliver’s mole was much larger than the average fleck or birthmark. In fact, it stretched the whole way down from the base of his neck, across his shoulders and down his spine. Consequently, doctors knew this was something out of the ordinary.
Soon after he was born, medics diagnosed Oliver with Congenital Melanocytic Naevi (CMN). The condition, which causes large moles and birthmarks like Oliver’s to develop, affects one in every 100 people. These moles are different than the average birthmark, as they normally measure more than 1 cm in diameter and grow as the child grows, too.
Unfortunately, this condition can leave children vulnerable to the most dangerous types of skin cancer. Most moles do not raise a person’s chances of growing melanoma, but the largest – like Oliver’s – put a person at risk, according to the British Association of Dermatologists.
These large moles can also cause problems if they spread, which puts Oliver in a particularly delicate situation. His mole is on his spine, so any movement up toward the brain could damage his nervous system and potentially threaten his life.
Of course, Oliver’s doctors know this and have kept a close eye on the boy since he was born. Brown told SWNS TVA that at six months, she took her baby for an MRI, “to make sure there weren’t any complications from growths on his brain or spine.”
“Fortunately, that was all given the all clear,” she continued. Now, she and her son check in with doctors every three months to make sure his skin is still its healthiest.
The Browns are also diligent in their protection of their son’s skin, since he’s so susceptible to cancer. In fact, they rely on a sun suit and prescription-strength sunblock to prevent Oliver’s mole from any damaging sun exposure.
Despite all this, Stephanie maintains a positive attitude about her son’s diagnosis and the extra motherly duties it entails. “[Oliver] is one of the fortunate ones,” she told Mason’s News Service. “Some children are riddled with moles and even get them on their eyelids.”
“Our experience so far has been a positive one,” she told SWNS TV. “It’s not always the case with others, I’m sure, but for us it’s been plain sailing. It’s just purely cosmetic from his skin point of view, and obviously we are monitored every three months for any changes in the skin, so we should be quite good.”
Brown also told SWNS TV that Oliver has yet to really notice or feel different because of his CMN. “As he’s quite young, it hasn’t been such a problem,” she said. But she does expect questions and concerns from her son. Luckily, however, she’s ready with an explanation, thanks to the unique appearance of his mole.
Oliver’s once-purple mole has softened to a light shade of brown and has spread across his shoulders in a shape that resembles “a pair of super hero angel wings,” according to mom Stephanie. And she hopes the distinctive shape will make her son feel proud of his skin.
“As he gets older we would hope he can accept himself for who he is. We have all got these bits of ourselves that we do not like and we have to accept them,” she told Mason’s News Service.
And in order to further build him up, Oliver will receive encouragement from Caring Matters Now. This U.K. charity supports those who suffer from CMN and their families. “They’re fantastic,” Stephanie told SWNS TV. “The work they do is fantastic.”
The family has already been involved in raising money for the organization, too. Oliver has a seven-year-old brother, Josh, and a charity 10K race was held at his school to benefit Caring Matters Now. The charity needs this type of attention so that new moms are aware of the skin condition.
Indeed, Lucy Hardwidge of Caring Matters Now told the Daily Mail just how vital early diagnosis is for children who have extra-large birthmarks and moles, so that they can avoid sun damage and skin cancer. She also lauded Stephanie’s approach of telling her son he now has angel wings. “When children have interesting shaped birthmarks it’s a great way of telling them about the condition and letting them know they are special,” she said.
Stephanie agrees and hopes her son will be able to look past his CMN. “He is wonderful the way he is and I’m sure in the dark times he will realize this,” she told Mason’s News Service. For now, though, he’s getting along just fine – and she imagines it’ll stay that way. “He is lucky in the sense he is such a cutie pop, everyone seems to think so, and I think people will overlook his condition.”