The face looking back at her in the mirror wasn’t the one she grew up with.
Her nose was the first thing to change. It used to be flat and broad, pug-like. Her lips were next. As it grew progressively thinner, her jaw grew narrower.
While this may sound like the diary of a plastic surgery addict, Ayu doesn’t have any control over her facial transformation.
This young woman from Pemalang, Central Java, has scleroderma, a disease that causes a hardening of the skin and its connective tissue.
Very little is known about this autoimmune disease apart from its symptoms and effects. The reasons why, when, how and to whom it strikes continues to remain a mystery.
The illness can be a disheartening experience, but Ayu remains determined to seize each day.
She credits her sickness as being the biggest motivator in finishing college, and the reason behind her love of photography. At the local high school where she works as a language teacher, her students respond to her passion in kind.
This extraordinary woman may not have chosen to be the face of scleroderma, but it’s a mantle she doesn’t mind taking up.
Her sickness might spread beyond her face someday. But it will never overshadow the awareness she has raised regarding the disease.
To find more information about scleroderma and your local support group, click here.