Who would fancy me now?

Chat - - Contents - By Rachel Jones, 45, from Scar­bor­ough, Aus­tralia

The lump just kept grow­ing day by day. Then went hard

I had just a 20 per cent chance of sur­vival…

Peer­ing in the mir­ror, I prod­ded a spongy lump that had re­cently ap­peared on the side of my nose. It didn’t hurt and wasn’t red, so I was cer­tain it was noth­ing to worry about.

It was July 1998, I was 26, had just mar­ried the per­fect bloke and was pur­su­ing my dream ca­reer as a sax­o­phon­ist – plus, I was healthy and happy.

But the lump on my nose was grow­ing day by day then, al­most overnight, it went hard.

So I went to the doc­tor, who said it was prob­a­bly just a si­nus in­flam­ma­tion, and I was pre­scribed an­tibi­otics. I prayed the swelling would shrink, in­stead it grew and ached.

One day, I filled my car with petrol and my sun­glasses top­pled from my head and bumped my nose – the pain was crip­pling!

I went back to the doc­tor who, think­ing it was a cyst, tried to drain it.

Noth­ing came out, so I was booked in for a biopsy and the sam­ple was sent to sev­eral spe­cial­ists around the world.

Fi­nally, weeks later, the doc­tor had got my di­ag­no­sis…

I had os­teogenic sar­coma, a cancer that starts in the bone.

It’s rare to have it in the nose and I was only the sixth case recorded in med­i­cal his­tory.

Also, I had just a 20 per cent chance of sur­vival.

‘It’s a very ag­gres­sive form of cancer. We have to act now,’ the doc­tor added.

Di­ag­nosed on the Fri­day, I was back in hos­pi­tal for chemo­ther­apy on the Mon­day.

A month later, in Novem­ber 1998, I had the lump re­moved.

There was a chance I wouldn’t make it through the op­er­a­tion.

‘It could make you blind, and we may have to re­move your eye,’ the doc­tor warned.

Five sur­geons would work on me. They’d re­move the tu­mour, re­build my nose and then take a skin graft from my left wrist. It took over 12 hours. When I awoke in ICU, I was at­tached to a mor­phine drip with a tube down my throat. I was in a lot of pain. A day later, I bravely asked for a mir­ror…

Star­ing back at me was a swollen, stitched-up face.

A plas­ter-like graft, an en­tirely dif­fer­ent shade to the rest of my face, was sewn onto my nose.

Un­recog­nis­able!

My road to re­cov­ery was long.

House­bound, it took six months to get through it.

Press­ing my lips to the sax­o­phone three months later, I found surgery had dam­aged the nerves in my face, too.

I could barely play. It was heart­break­ing.

Bald be­cause of chemo, with scars on my face and a cast on my arm, I was so self-con­scious about the way I looked.

‘What’s wrong with that woman’s face?’ kids would stare when I even­tu­ally went out

Two years af­ter surgery, I had many re­con­struc­tive surg­eries. But it didn’t hide the scars. Sadly, when I was 38, my hus­band and I split up.

Al­though he’d been re­ally sup­port­ive to me, it was time

to go our sep­a­rate ways…

Find­ing it hard to imag­ine any­one find­ing me at­trac­tive, I strug­gled to meet any­one new.

In 2014, af­ter a plas­tic sur­geon told me about fore­head flap nasal re­con­struc­tion surgery, I did some re­search, and felt a surge of ex­cite­ment!

I needed this surgery to change my life.

I’d given up, barely both­er­ing with my face or hair, think­ing I’d never look pretty again…

But the prospect of this surgery filled me with hope. In Oc­to­ber 2015, I went for it. ‘There will be three stages,’ the sur­geon ex­plained to me.

But I was ready for the pain and long re­cov­ery.

A com­plex and ex­haus­tive process, I prayed it’d be worth it, as skin from my fore­head was trans­planted to my nose. The old skin grafts were re­moved, then, ev­ery­thing was repo­si­tioned, in­clud­ing the tip of my eye­brow.

‘It’s all done!’ the sur­geon said af­ter, when he came to see me in Re­cov­ery. He’d done an amaz­ing job. I now feel so much bet­ter about the way I look. There’s still work to be done, as the surgery scars are very vis­i­ble. Though the ini­tial surgery was cov­ered by the equiv­a­lent of the NHS here – I’m now fundrais­ing to have pri­vate treat­ment to hide the scar­ring even more.

They’re still no­tice­able and my self-es­teem is very low.

The cancer and surgery has cer­tainly changed my life.

I’m just hop­ing that one day peo­ple are go­ing to see me for me… And not my face.

The prospect of this surgery filled me with hope

My face be­fore This is the way I used to look…

The graft from my wrist looked like a plas­ter

I was to­tally un­recog­nis­able

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