Crystal Marshall, 22, was diagnosed with osteosarcoma – a type of bone cancer – in her cheek when she was 18-years-old. At the time she was studying performing arts and felt that all her acting ambitions were over.
She started chemotherapy straight away and underwent seven rounds of chemotherapy. After her chemo finished in January 2017, Crystal was then transferred to University College Hospital in London, where she had three operations.
“After I had surgery for my cancer in 2017 I thought my acting career was over. When I went to the toilet and saw myself in a mirror it was awful. I couldn’t even cry because my face was so swollen and my eyes were so closed.”
Crystal’s confidence was shattered and she feared she may never dare brave the stage again.
“It was really sad to see my friends going to university, party and enjoy themselves, whereas I was having cancer treatment. I kept thinking, why couldn’t be normal or why couldn’t the bone cancer take my leg so that my facial features would be okay. It made me feel really isolated.”
Despite her tough condition, the brave woman never gave up. She is determined to help others who have been diagnosed with the same condition feel less isolated. She even set up a blog to help them realize they can still have the confidence to fulfil their dreams. And, as a result, she has made friends all over the world.
“My dream of becoming an actress almost slipped away once, and I’ve come so far since I was diagnosed, so I’m firmly crossing my fingers and asking for help to make my dream a reality.”
She adds: “I dream of playing a Marvel Superhero one day. Because I would love for a little girl who had facial scarring and or was getting picked on at school to see a superhero who was like me, so they’d have someone to look up to.”
“After nearly a three-year break from acting as I adjusted to living with a visible difference, I decided to apply to drama school in 2019. I applied because I was at a place in my life where I wasn’t happy. I was volunteering at my local theatre, hiding in the background and doing stage management work because I had never seen an actor with a visible difference on stage before.”
Thankfully, her dedication has paid off. In June 2020, she got an email saying that she had been accepted by LAMDA drama school onto their Foundation Diploma course. Her amazing achievements were praised by Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie at the Teenage Cancer Trust 2020 Awards.
“Crystal wow, your story is amazing” Princess Eugenie told her. “Where does that courage come from? Where does that amazing drive come from. It’s just wonderful to hear your story.”
And Princess Beatrice added: “One of the biggest things that I’ve witnessed is that strength of coming together and not feeling that you’re ever alone in this. So your determination to be that pillar of strength for so many is really really incredible.”
“So it’s amazing now that I’ve actually achieved my dream of getting a place at a drama school. I may be four years late but I’m living my dream and it feels absolutely amazing.”
“I believe that now is the right time for actors with visible differences to be seen and heard. We are more than a villain with a scar, more than a character who is feared, teased or ignored. We are so much more.”
Crystal still has further reconstructive surgery in the future. But after all, Crystal gains enough confidence to chase her dream and brave the stage again.
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