Xiao Yan always felt different but was content. Growing up in the village of Longjing in Guizhou Province in south-western China, she recalls a happy childhood.
But as Yan grew older, she began to feel self-conscious about the mole, a birthmark, covering a large portion of her face.
The condition, known as congenital melanocytic nevus, is considered giant if, by adulthood, it reaches eight inches in diameter.
Yan was ready to live with her birthmark even though she felt different.
“Despite the big black mole on my face, I enjoyed my childhood playing with my friends,” Yan said.
Then she began to experience pain in the areas of the mole. After doctors at Shanghai Ninth People’s Hospital in East China, took a look, they became concerned.
Knowing that there was a risk of cancer from Yan’s birthmark, they admitted her for treatment. Yan was not prepared for what would happen next.
After spending years feeling different, the next several months would be much worse. After her family raised the money for the surgery, Yan underwent the first stage of her treatment.
Four balloons were implanted under the tissue around her face in order to stretch the skin. The balloons were then filled with saline over time to create more tissue to work with.
The mole area will eventually be replaced by this new skin in a surgical graph.
The photos are shocking with Yan’s face seemingly deformed. But behind the images are the promise of a new face and the decreased rick of cancer.
The process is not easy. “During the first month of treatment, my face hurt so much because of the egg-sized expanders and the saline injections that I wanted to slam my face into a wall,” said Yan.
As the doctors continued to inject saline, the balloons grew, creating a distorted version of Yan.
Her mother, Yang Xiua, said that she begged the villagers to stop making fun of her. She had been dubbed the Gourd Doll. Yan tried to keep her head covered when out in public.
But Yan is strong. “I used to feel sorry for myself. But I’ve grown up under the support of my family and now I’m much more positive,” said Yan.
Though it’s a tough battle, she’s ready for the future.
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