(WSVN) - Many children are born with birthmarks, but parents of one little girl thought her birthmark would affect her life, so they traveled halfway around the world to get help. 7’s Karen Hensel has tonight’s special report, “Something to Smile About.”
When baby Luna was born, it was both a joyous moment and a shocking one.
Caroline Fenner, Luna’s mother: “After 49 hours in labor, it was a huge surprise.”
Luna arrived with a rare skin condition that covered most of her face. Her birthmark, referred to as a “Batman mask,” was also potentially dangerous.
The condition is called congenital melanocytic nevus. It can increase the risk of melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer.
We talked to Luna’s mom, Caroline Fenner, while she was in Brazil visiting family.
Caroline Fenner: “It is very deep, and in Luna’s case, it already gave her three cancers. That’s why we are in a rush to remove 100% of the birthmark.”
Most days, Luna is like most toddlers, laughing and playing and blowing kisses to her mom, but much of her early days were spent flying around the United States, meeting with nearly a dozen American doctors trying to find answers.
Caroline Fenner: “All these surgeries were very aggressive, and I didn’t want that for Luna.”
That’s when she found Dr. Pavel Popov, an oncologist and surgeon in Russia.
Caroline Fenner: “He said, ‘I have a less aggressive procedure here. Instead of six years, we are going to remove her nevus in two and a half years.”
With six surgeries done and just one more in a few weeks, the nevus is nearly gone.
Dr. Popov uses a photodynamic therapy system. The procedure includes injecting a drug into Luna’s skin to break down the tissue, then applying light to destroy the thick nevus, section by section.
Caroline Fenner: “They just put her to sleep with a local anesthesia, and after the surgery, even with bandages, she is active. After the first surgery, within two hours, Luna was dancing.”
But it has not been an easy road for Luna, who has battled infections and at times has had to live with full-face bandages.
It hasn’t been easy for Caroline, either.
Caroline Fenner: “The worst situation: we were in a church last July, and a little girl came and pointed at Luna and said, ‘If I was born like you, I would kill myself.’ Luna is understanding the things now, and Luna was like, ‘Mom, she doesn’t like me. Why?’ So that makes me sad. The parents need to teach the kids to be better people.”
It is a journey of both mental and physical challenges she has documented on her Instagram page, which has attracted nearly 370,000 followers.
Caroline Fenner: “We’ve been receiving a lot of messages every day for the last two years.”
Although the condition is rare, happening in just 1% of births, through the Instagram page, Luna has met other children who look just like her.
Caroline Fenner: “She plays like she is a princess. She loves the princesses. Right, Luna?”
Like a lot of little girls, Luna loves to play dress-up.
Caroline Fenner: “Oh, she has the dress of Elsa. She looks in the mirror and says, ‘Mom, the black is gone. Now I am a real princess.'”
Luna is a fighter, and at not even 3 years old, her setback has already become her comeback.
To check out Luna’s Instagram page, click here.
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