'I thought I had hay fever' - South Shields nurse who lost eye battling rare facial tumour raising cash to fund life-changing hospital equipment

A nurse who lost an eye and underwent life-changing surgery after finding out her hay fever was actually a rare facial tumour is now raising cash to fund equipment to help others.

Monday, 25th November 2019, 6:00 am
Janet Ullah following surgery for a rare facial tumour.

Janet Ullah, 59, thought she was experiencing hay fever when she went to the chemist for something to relieve her symptoms.

Two weeks later in May 2016, the then 56-year-old was diagnosed with squamosal carcinoma, a rare form of cancer in the sinuses, which had spread throughout the rest of her face.

In a 22-hour surgery, doctors removed her sinuses and the left side of her face, including her left eye and jaw, rebuilding it with fat taken from her stomach.

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Janet Ullah and her husband before she was diagnosed with a rare facial tumour.

“It all happened so quick,” said Janet, of King George Road, South Shields, an auxiliary nurse at South Tyneside District Hospital.

“It was a shock. I really thought I had hay fever. When they told me that it was cancer you could have blown me away.”

Three years on the mum-of-one now has a prosthetic eye but still experiences anxiety attacks when she goes out alone.

“At first I didn’t want to look at myself, I had to cover all the mirrors, I couldn’t stand it,” she said.

Janet Ullah and friend Ruth Follit (right) are raising money for the RVI maxillo facial surgery department.

“I hated myself. I had terrible anxiety, I felt as though people were looking at me. Even now if I go out on my own I sometimes get anxiety attacks, but I’m here to tell the story so I should be thankful.”

She continued: “My husband and daughter have been through it as much as I have, I’m so lucky to have them.”

With the help of friends and family, Janet is now attempting to raise £10,000 for the Maxillo Facial Surgery unit at the RVI, where doctors rebuilt her face and made her prosthetic eye.

The money would help fund a 4D scanner to allow them to create detailed prosthetics more quickly and easily for other patients.

“The surgeons and consultants have been utterly fantastic right from the beginning,” said Janet.

“The day they put that eye in, it made me feel a little bit more human.”

To date they have raised just over £3,000 through various events, raffles and coffee mornings.

Janet added: “I can never repay them for what they have done for me, but this would feel like I was giving a small bit back.”

For more information visit the Fundraising for RVI Maxillo facial surgery Facebook page.