A Russian girl with a rare disease has been aging rapidly ever since she was a baby. Her mom could tell she was aging too quickly every day, and her father was so terrified of his baby’s wrinkly face that he abandoned his wife and daughter. Although she was called “grandma” as a child, she’s learned that being positive on the inside is the best way to be—and it’s certainly changed her life.
When Katja Nezhentseva from Russia was born over two decades ago, her mother noticed something wrong with her. She started to develop wrinkles ever since she was just a baby. And they became more and more apparent as the little girl grew up.
Soon, Katja was diagnosed with an extremely rare genetic disorder called progeria, which makes the body age about eight times faster than average. About just one out of 8 million babies are affected by the disorder. Currently, there is no cure, and few people born with progeria live older than 13 years.
Katja’s father couldn’t endure seeing his young daughter’s aging face and chose to leave the family. “I can’t stand the kid,” he said before leaving both the mother and daughter behind.
On the contrary, Katja’s mother, Irina Nezhentseva, of Novy Urengoy, Russia, stood by her daughter with unconditional love. Growing up, Katja was not aware of how she was different from others until she started to go to school.
Children in her neighborhood would make fun of her. “Grandma, why are you wearing a miniskirt?” They would even ask her, “Why are you playing with little kids?”
“Then I realized that no one liked me. When people saw my face, they were frightened. I asked myself, ‘What have I done to deserve this?’ But I never found the answer,” Katja told Hefty.
“I thought a lot about it,” she said. “If I couldn’t be accepted for my appearance, I decided I would try to change my image by showing my inside. I wanted to show that I was also a charming and lovely girl, with a lot of nice features. I’m sure that the most important thing is the human being inside.”
“I accepted myself and learned to love myself,” she added. “I thought, there are actually only 20 other people like me in the world, which actually makes me very unique and interesting!”
Her positive thoughts and attitude make her a confident 22-year-old woman. She has defied all odds.
What’s more, she met a man named Denis, who got in contact with her accidentally—after dialing the “wrong number” when making a phone call one day. They soon fell in love and decided to get married and have a family. Soon after their wedding, Katja was pregnant and then gave birth to a healthy son.
“I feel amazing and I’m glad that I’ve had the confidence to help myself through all the difficulties I’ve faced,” Katja said. “Now, I have a husband and I’ve been rewarded with a beautiful little son, so what could be better?”
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