Have You Met Mark?

Have You Met Mark?

Mark Fetterman lives near our Clinic and supports our work because he knows the positive impact we have in the lives of our patients. Read his inspiring story about how he actively chose to not let his cleft define his future.

I was born in 1971 in Wilmington, Delaware with a cleft lip and palate. Over the next several months, I underwent multiple corrective surgeries in Philadelphia. Other than related speech and hearing issues, I was extremely healthy. From infancy to my early teen years, I didn’t experience many problems with my cleft. I did well in school, enjoyed sports, and had lots of friends. I was occasionally teased about my lip, but those instances were fairly rare.

High school was a time when I became very self-conscious about my cleft. Over three successive summers, I underwent surgeries involving a bone graft, rhinoplasty and a procedure where part of my bottom lip was transplanted to my top lip. For the transplant procedure, I spent a large part of the summer with my mouth sewn shut except for a small hole on one side. For everyone, high school is a time of great change, adjustment and insecurity. I become very self-conscious of my appearance, which greatly affected my confidence. It was difficult knowing that certain girls wouldn’t date me because of my cleft.

In dealing with my cleft, I decided that I had two choices; feel sorry for myself and allow the difference to define me, or defy my difference by using it as motivation to excel at everything I did. I choose to defy my difference and, in the process, defy anyone who judged me solely on that basis. In academics, I worked hard, graduated from the University of Delaware in three years and earned a law degree from Penn State – Dickinson School of Law. In sports, I worked hard and excelled at baseball, soccer, and golf. Since earning my law degree, I have embarked upon a successful career as a trial attorney. I am Chief of the Major Crimes Unit with the Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office, where I handle major crimes such as homicide, drug delivery resulting in death, and arson. I have also taught a college-level political science course, as well as trial advocacy seminars. Most importantly, I have a beautiful wife and three beautiful and healthy sons. My cleft hasn’t stopped me from achieving any of my goals in life.

Although I’ve been able to defy my difference, I will never be able to completely defeat it. I don’t enjoy having my picture taken and I occasionally notice people starting at me when I first meet them. When the feelings of doubt and insecurity arise, I remind myself of my personal and professional success and the wonderful life that I have. I can honestly say that if given the choice, I wouldn’t change the fact I was born with a cleft lip and palate. The experience of having a cleft has helped to shape and form the person that I am. My mother has always told me that great people usually have a great obstacle to overcome. My cleft has been my obstacle, and I will always refuse to let it prevent me from becoming the best person that I can be.