The Early Show continues its "Week of Wishes" with the story of a woman who defines what it really means to be beautiful.
The face that Marlene Ingersoll shows the world is nearly perfect: the lines are evidence of a life spent caring for those around her. What you don't see is something that has become a permanent bruise on her soul.
Fifty-four years ago, Marlene came into this world with a birthmark, a port wine stain. The problem wasn't so much the size but the location, right in the middle of her face. Little Marlene soon found out that the world could be a cruel place: When the teasing became unbearable, she hid behind thick, heavy makeup.
Her daughter Carrie Wood says, "It was such a thick makeup, it gave her a ghostly complexion so in a lot of pictures I have of her, she looks washed out."
Most people couldn't see past the mark on her face. But one man looked at Marlene and saw only beauty.
Wood says, "My dad has always been very smitten with my mom. He thinks she's the most beautiful woman in the world. He never even saw it. I mean, I know he saw it, but he didn't see it like most people do, her birthmark."
In the years that followed, the Ingersolls had four children. Marlene spent what little money the family had on necessities for them, so an expensive treatment for her birthmark was out of the question.
Wood notes, "I think she just thought it was hopeless and she'd make do because that's how she was, and is."
And although she rarely mentioned it, daughter Carrie Wood could always sense her mother's pain.
Wood says, "When we've gone on vacations, my mom has put on makeup to go sit in the sun. And how comfortable can that be? It's hot. Nobody wants to wear makeup at the beach.
Today, Marlene Ingersoll tells her family that she's finally at peace with her appearance. But her two daughters know better.
Amanda Yazdi says, "She'll always have her makeup on."
Wood says, "leave her notes and send little cards and tell her how beautiful she is. I know my dad tells her she's beautiful all the time, my sister tells her, and I know my brother tells her, but if she can't believe it for herself, then…"
Yazdi notes, "When you try to tell someone that and they don't believe it, and it's your own mother, you can tell."
Carrie Wood knew her mom would never have the chance to feel beautiful. Unless she, herself, took a leap of faith.
Wood wrote the following to The Early Show's "Week of Wishes:" "I don't know if I can put into words what my wish is. My mother is 54-years-young and has never seen her face. I know she's beautiful. Please help me show that she's just as beautiful on the outside as she is on the inside."
Thursday, thinking her daughter Amanda had won a trip to New York, Marlene Ingersoll visited the show along with her two daughters. But after finding the real reason behind the gathering, Ingersoll says, "It just touches my heart and I'm so surprised. I don't know what to say. For once in my life, I'm speechless."
Having been born with a port wine stain herself, a sympatheticasked Ingersoll if she thought of doing anything about her birthmark.
"Well, I had read things in the past," Ingersoll says. "But a lot of times, they said if it was near your eye or close to your lip, that sometimes that could cause greater problems. So I kind of shied away from it, and then a lot of times, the expense of it. And so I didn't do anything about it."
An emotional Storm notes there's been a lot of Dr. Milton Waner. He is head of the Vascular Birthmark Institute at Beth Israel hospital., though sadly, it is not covered by insurance, so many people go without treatment. But while doing the series on port wine stains she met one of the top surgeons in the world,
Dr. Waner goes all over the world and does surgery on people and changes their lives. He's at the forefront of the laser surgery technology, and he had something very special to tell Ingersoll.
"CBS has shown me some of your photographs. And I have to say that there's a lot we can do for you," Dr. Waner says. "I'm here to say that I can help you and I'm here to offer you whatever help you need, whatever help you want. So if you do want to actually have treatment, I can help you."
"That's unbelievable. Thank you very much," Ingersoll said.
Asked if laser surgery would make a significant difference for Ingersoll, Dr. Waner says, "Absolutely. You have the type of birthmark that would respond very, very, very well to laser treatment. And as far as I'm concerned, you should get a very, very good response. And I'm here to help you. I can do the laser treatment for you and everything has been taken care of. You don't have to worry. We're here to help."
Beth Israel hospital in New York City has agreed to assume all of Ingersoll's hospitalization costs.
And to put her at ease about the surgery Storm says, "I am also going to have this same surgery. It's best done in the fall and the winter, Dr. Waner told me. So I don't know if you have any trepidations or worries about it, but if you want to, we can do ours at the same time, if that would make you feel better."