Dawn Shaw embraces facial paralysis in “The Power of Choice”


Photo courtesy of Dawn Shaw

Dawn Shaw, a motivational speaker who has a partially paralyzed face, challenged people to embrace the power of choice at De Anza College’s DNExTalks event on Feb. 19.
Shaw was born with a protrusion the size of a fist sticking out of her left cheek. After she underwent surgery to remove it, doctors discovered it was a teratoma tumor made up of brain tissue.
The teratoma grew back, and in order to remove it, bone, nerve, and muscle had to be removed — which left half of her face paralyzed.
“I decided that I wasn’t going to allow my different face to ruin my life,” Shaw said.
Shaw said that she would deny reconstructive face surgery if given the choice because she embraces herself as she is.
She added that choice is influenced by both outside forces and personal priorities, and recognizing this is powerful.
“I was definitely very connected to Shaw’s message,” said Prayusha Parikh, an 18-year-old computer science major. “I felt like a few of the points, like how you should appreciate who you are, really helped me go through anything.”
Parikh said she has implemented the power of choice as a student athlete by exercising, eating right and sleeping well.
Catherine Le, 18, biology major, said she also connected with Shaw’s ideas.
“I felt that her story was really inspiring and motivating,” Le said. “It’s not every day where you hear stories like this.”
Le said she found Shaw’s ideas about how attitude affects perception the most important part of her story.
“Because society is really harsh, the parameters of society force people to be a certain way,” Le said. “I feel that Dawn was able to break out of this when she talks about the power of choice.”
Alyssa D’Agostino, a 25-year-old nursing major, agreed.
“It’s crazy to think that people have the heart to say the things they do. And actually I think her strength was super inspiring,” D’Agostino said. “I was sad, I was confused, but super inspired. It makes you think about how you look at yourself every day in the mirror.”