POMPANO BEACH, Fla. – When Carolina Fenner went into labor in March, she was anticipating the joy of welcoming her baby girl, already named Luna, into the world.
But moments after the birth, her excitement was tempered by confusion.
"They gave me the baby and I was like, 'What?' The only picture they have of me holding is her is 'What's this?' I was shocked and the doctor said, 'Oh, I think it's a birthmark,'" Fenner said.
But it was far more than that covering the majority of little Luna's face.
She was born with a disfiguring and potentially cancerous growth called a giant congenital melanocytic nevus, which is the result of malfunctioning cells we all have in our skin called melanocytes.
"The second day, a doctor came to see me and he said, 'Mom, be prepared for cancer because the mark is so big,' but they never told me about the nevus disease," Fenner said.
In her search for support, Fenner started an Instagram page called Luna.Love.Hope. The number of followers of the page is growing by thousands every day.
"Everybody started painting their faces like Luna and sending me pictures," she said.
When she contacted to Local10 News, an effort was launched to find a doctor to help baby Luna.
Within weeks, she connected with Nicklaus Children's Hospital pediatric plastic surgeon Dr. Anthony Wolfe, who explained the long and complex process of removing the nevus.
"I told the mother we'd start with the eyes and the nose to try to get that taken care of first," Wolfe said.
Before he can start surgically removing the nevus, Wolfe will need to harvest skin from other areas of Luna's face, neck and body.
"You can use tissue expanders. You can use skin grafts. Eyelid skin, which we're going to have to replace in her, we often get that from the upper arm because it's quite thin there and it makes good eyelid skin," Wolfe said.
The process will start this summer with procedures spaced out over the next three to four years.
"He was wonderful because I was expecting much less than what he offered her," Fenner said of Wolfe. "He brought me hope, and I'm more relaxed now."
Fenner knows the road ahead will be long and painful for Luna, but she's grateful to be able to protect her daughter from possible health risks and the pain of public scrutiny.