What may have disturbed Penny Loker the most about a CNN story about disfigured Vietnamese children and stillborn babies was the caption above the photos.
According to Loker's blog, it read: “Warning: the following photographs contain graphic content of severely deformed children. Viewer discretion is advised.”
Loker was reportedly born with rare birth defects -- hemifacial miscrosomia and Goldenhar Syndrome -- that affected the way facial bones and tissues formed.
A 'viewer discretion' label for children who simply looked different?
In the Waterloo, Ontario woman's own words:
"This pissed me off to no end because the first picture was of this sweet little girl who had the biggest smile you could tell that despite her surroundings she was happy.
"The other reason why this hurt me was because I am different. I am 'deformed' and reading that viewer discretion warning ahead of the article (amounted) to telling me that every time I left the house I should wear a similar warning.
So, she sent an email to the news organization.
“I didn’t expect anything. I just sent it off, thought it would just go into cyberspace, never to be heard from again,” Loker told CBC's The Morning Edition on Thursday.
CNN did reportedly change the photo caption. And went a step further -- reaching out to Loker.
"We invited her to educate us all by sharing her story and allowing us to see the world through her eyes," an editor's note reads on a CNN story featuring the 31-year-old.
And then, as Loker related to CBC, came the flood of emails and social media support. She would later host a CNN online chat and write about her experiences on her blog.
One of the many new online friends who embraced her story wrote, "unfortunately she has also been the victim of... ridicule at times in her life because of her birth defect and appearance.
"We don't care about physical appearances, right? What should matter is only integrity and character."
Another blog, The Virtuous Girl, sums up the spirit of Penny Loker -- a spirit that seems to have reached thousands.
'Even though Penny’s birth defects disfigured her face, she refused to let it affect the person she is on the inside. Penny is beautiful not because of how she looks, but because of who she is. Instead of being negative about her condition, Penny embraced it. Instead of hiding, Penny now seeks to help and encourage other kids exactly like her.'
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