A teenager who spent most of her young life under the surgeon’s knife is hoping to inspire others who have to live with facial disfigurement.
Katie Meehan touched the hearts of the people of South Tyneside in 2000 when the Gazette revealed how every day was a struggle for her after being diagnosed with cystic hygroma.
The condition meant she lived with an enlarged tongue and face which left it hard, at times, for her to breathe and eat.
Thanks to the generosity of our readers and businesses, a staggering £60,000 was raised to pay for surgery.
Now, 19, Katie, of Ely Way, Jarrow, has launched her own blog in a bid to inspire others who are living with a facial disfigurement.
The blog – http://katiemeehan.co.uk/ – currently has 20,000 views and centres on beauty and make up as well as her love of photography.
I know I’m really lucky to have the friends I have.Katie Meehan
Katie, who is studying business management at Gateshead College said: “Through the blog I’m hoping to reach out to others who have gone through what I have – living with a facial disfigurement. I want to create a type of support network for them.
“I love make up, so it was a natural progression for me to do something like this. I have had so much support throughout the years from people but I don’t feel I’ve really been made to feel different from anybody else.
“I know that’s not the same for everyone. I’m really lucky to have the friends that I have.”
Katie, who could have more corrective surgery on her face, says she has no immediate plans to undergo any operation.
She added: “I could have more surgery but then, when do you say enough?
“When I was younger it was a necessity to make my life more comfortable.
“If I was to have it now, it would just be a case of because I want it, and I’m happy with who I am.”
As well as posting her own blogs, Katie hopes to one day invite other girls to post items as guests to help build their confidence.
She said: “I never thought that one day have my own blog. I’m just really proud of myself of what I’ve achieved in my first year of doing this.
“Through the blog hopefully I’m inspiring other girls and showing that everyone is beautiful and it’s my way of giving something back to the community for everything they have done for me.”
Katie’s blog can be read by visiting http://katiemeehan.co.uk/
Catching a cold could have killed her as a child
Katie Meehan first hit the headlines when she was just four years old.
The Gazette revealed the youngster suffered from a rare condition which jeopardised her life each time she caught a cold.
Katie was diagnosed with cystic hygroma, which meant her face was constantly swollen and the cysts made it difficult for her to eat and drink.
In 2000 the Gazette launched an appeal to raise £15,000 to pay for the youngster’s first operation, by world-famous plastic surgeon Prof Ian Jackson.
The first bout of surgery took place in spring 2000 at Guys and St Thomas’s Hospital in London.
Her left cheek and tongue were cut open during the five-hour surgery, and cysts were removed.
The fund went on to raise £60,000, thanks to kind hearted readers and businesses, and saw Katie undergo further gruelling operations. In spring 2001 she had her second at the Portland Hospital in London, and two years later, she had a third operation.
Cystic hygroma is where a fluid forms a mass on the head and neck. It may be found at birth, or discovered later in an infant after an upper respiratory tract infection.
The cysts can cause problems with breathing and swallowing.