LAYTON -- Maurice Simpson is one man who has learned to find joy in his challenges.
The 36-year-old has neurofibromatosis, a rare genetic condition that causes tumors to grow on the right side of his face and head. The tumors get bigger over time.
But since the story of the Washington Terrace resident first appeared in the Standard-Examiner two years ago, telling of his lifelong plight facing dozens of surgeries to cut away ever-growing tumor tissue, Simpson has enjoyed a newfound acceptance and recognition that allows him to help others. He has been asked to speak in front of school and church groups.
"I just love being in front of people. I do," he said. "I don't want to hide or stay in the house. I want to be out and about making people happy. ... I'm in that point in my life with all the questions people ask, I just want to do more."
And Simpson said talking about his challenges brings him joy.
"You can be happy with NF," he said. "I like to help people see me as normal because I am normal."
The manager at Pizza Hut To Go on the corner of Highway 193 and Hill Field Road in Layton, Simpson said if he had his way, he'd be a full-time public speaker and personal trainer.
"If I could do speaking and personal training all rolled into one, I wouldn't mind that," he said.
But with a family of five children, Simpson said he can't afford to do those things exclusively because they currently don't pay him enough.
Simpson just finished a season as the assistant coach for the Layton Christian Academy girls basketball team.
With only one senior on the team, the girls made it to the state tournament, where they won their first round of play.
Simpson was first mentioned in the newspaper two years ago because he was going in for surgery to remove much of the tumor growth.
The two extensive operations he faced were made possible by an area donor who wants to remain anonymous to the public.
But the donor has befriended Simpson and has made other efforts to bless the man's life.
Simpson said his 2010 surgeries have changed his life in big ways besides all the recognition.
"Us guys, we don't want to lose weight. We want to gain weight, but that weight I was happy to lose," he said, noting that his face feels 5 pounds lighter to him these days.
"I'm a little guy," he said. "I'm 5'10" and I weigh 150 pounds. I'd rather be 5'10" and be 175 pounds. I want people to say, 'Look at that guy. He's pretty dang fit. Look at the definition in his arms.' "
But Simpson said finding time to get to the gym is hard for a responsible father.
So until he can be proud of his body, he'll be happy enough with other kinds of recognition he gets, literally, from all over the world.
Simpson said he enjoys having more than 2,000 Facebook friends from around the globe.
"You name a foreign country, and I have a Facebook friend in that country," he said.
Many of his friends are those with his same condition or parents and friends of those who have it.
"There are so many different people out there with NF. You would be surprised," he said. "I am part of several different (discussion) groups. ... I get messages from parents. I've given them strength to live a normal life."
A majority of those friends came about after an hourlong TLC documentary that aired throughout the world last year.
The documentary included video footage of Simpson shot by Standard-Examiner photographers.
He started with 200 Facebook friends, and after the documentary played, he had another 200 within the first hour.
But Simpson said he is happy even being recognized by one person on the street or at work.
"They say, 'I seen you in the paper,' " he said. "I get that a lot. It's fun. I get that more than anything."
He said he likes talking to people who first meet him because they generally think he is funny when he speaks.
"It's funny how things work out," he said. "Your family don't think you are funny. Everyone else thinks you are funny."