Burns survivor, 33, with 'crocodile skin'

A Canadian burn victim who was cruelly told she had 'crocodile skin' has shared an empowering video after learning to love her scars - because of her daughter.

Joy Zylstra, 33, from Edmonton in Alberta, was lucky to survive an explosion caused by lighting a candle in a gas filled cabin as a child.

It left second and third degree burns covering 45 per cent of her body, as specialist doctors battled to keep her alive.

After five weeks in hospital and four skin grafts, she was discharged - but she struggled to come to terms with her new appearance.  

She was called an array of horrid names including 'freak' and 'alien', but the worst was having her skin compared to the 'scales of a crocodile'.

For years she hated her scars, but after giving birth to her first child Ciara, now 12, she knew that to be accepted by her daughter she had to learn to love herself.

Since then, she's been on a quest to empower others, releasing a video last week to to encourage others to feel body positive. 

Joy Zylstra, 33, from Edmonton in Alberta, was lucky to survive an explosion caused by lighting a candle in a gas filled cabin as child

Joy Zylstra, 33, from Edmonton in Alberta, was lucky to survive an explosion caused by lighting a candle in a gas filled cabin as child

Ms Zylstra, a mother-of-three, said: 'When I used to look in the mirror I would see ugliness, flaws and pain - now I see strength, courage and that I refused to give up.

'Before it was such a sad, depressing way to live, I felt sorry for myself and eventually I had to realise there was nothing I could do to change what happened but accept it.

'It was harder for a few comments, the worst was that it looked like I had "alligator skin", it broke my heart hearing that, all I wanted to be was normal but knew I never could.

'When people said I had "skin like an alligator" it was more upsetting because it was not far off, my scarring does look like scales in parts because of all the bumps.'

Accepting herself for her daughter 

She added: 'It has taken a long time to accept myself and only happened once I became a mother, I looked at my daughter and knew I never wanted her to be ashamed of me.

'I wanted to set an example by not putting such a value on looks and having such a low self-esteem, I knew if I hated how I looked and my scars, how could I expect her to accept me.

It left second and third degree burns covering 45 per cent of her body, as specialist doctors battled to keep her alive

It left second and third degree burns covering 45 per cent of her body, as specialist doctors battled to keep her alive

After five weeks in hospital and four skin grafts, she was discharged - but she struggled to come to terms with her new appearance

After five weeks in hospital and four skin grafts, she was discharged - but she struggled to come to terms with her new appearance

'I was determined to teach her that physical appearance isn't important so I knew I needed to work on myself to be able to teach her that. 

'If I could go back in time, I wouldn't change any part of my life even getting burned, because it's made me who I am today and I'm proud of my scars.

'I chose to be okay with who I am and help other people to live a much happier life.' 

What was the accident? 

Miss Zylstra was nine-years-old when she was burned from an accident during a family trip to relatives who lived in an isolated area of the mountains.

After going into one of the cabins to play with her toys, she lit a candle. But she had no idea the room was filled with propane gas after a stove was accidentally left on.

When I used to look in the mirror I would see ugliness, flaws and pain - now I see strength, courage and that I refused to give up

Joy Zylstra, 33

She added: 'I went to light a candle and next thing I knew, I

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