Hey y’all, my name is Kaley! I am currently a freshman at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, North Carolina, and I was born with a bilateral cleft lip and palate.
At six weeks old, I went through my first surgery to repair my lip. Then, at nine months old, I received my second surgery to fix my palate. I also underwent two bone grafts, one at age eight, and the other, later on, at age twelve. Now, I am currently working with my Duke team to perfect my teeth with braces, a bridge, and possibly a rhinoplasty in the near future. With all of this going on, I still had plenty of time, more than enough time rather, to be a kid. I was able to graduate high school, hang out with friends, attend church, and play sports. Yep, that’s right, I can play sports!
You see, a cleft lip and palate does not, whatsoever, affect our ability to play sports, if anything, it enhances our ability because we clefties have become quite tough throughout the years! Up until I graduated high school, sports made up a big part of my life. I began playing soccer for my Wilson County’s Recreational League around age three, and then, around age seven, I began playing competitively for Wilson’s Travel Youth Soccer Association.
As I entered middle school, I played volleyball and basketball, along with soccer. In high school I decided to switch things up and swim my freshman year, where I landed a spot on a relay team in regionals, and I also picked up tennis. With tennis, I qualified for regionals as both a junior and senior, ending my career as the number one seed. And of course, I kept up with soccer, maintaining a spot on the varsity team all four years of high school, to which I was named Conference Defensive Player of the Year as both a junior and senior, again. I was also able to end my travel soccer career winning the State’s Kepner Cup!
Yet, I tell you all these things not to receive a pat on the back, but to prove to the world that we clefties are more than capable. We can be the valedictorian of our class. We can have a multitude of friends. We CAN play sports and accomplish whatever we set our minds to. Our clefts do not define us. So, stand tall, chin up, and smile because we are #Cleftstrong! And remember this: “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” (Psalm 139: 13-14)