By Liana Jacob
MEET the man with huge cysts on his face who was bullied and caught up in fights as a result throughout his school-life but thanks to his devoted British girlfriend he has learnt to embrace his cysts and move on.
Sales executive, Alexander Marti (27), from Brisbane, Australia, was born with a condition called lymphatic malformation, specifically cystic hygroma; a mass in the face or neck that results from an abnormal formation of lymphatic vessels.
Growing up with the condition meant that he felt different to his peers during his primary school years and he had some speech impediments due to the size of his tongue which was bigger than normal that it didn’t sit comfortably in his mouth.
He was bullied because of what he looked like and had to undergo tracheotomy surgery, an incision in the windpipe made to relieve an obstruction to breathing.
Alexander’s dad, Carlos Enrique Marti, encouraged him to stand up for himself and since moving to Queensland he has made many friends and is now in a happy relationship with Sarah Hill.
“Coming from an ethnic background and with my hygroma more severe than now, in year five there was this one Aussie kid who used to verbally bully me a great deal,” Alexander said.
“My parents did the right thing and went to the school to tell the teachers in the hope that they could sort it out, but nothing was done.
“My parents, being a bit old school, told me to stand up for myself and if he did it again, don’t hold back.
“So, our class was standing outside our classroom in two lines, waiting for our teacher to let us in; that’s when this kid said something about my cheek again and I just snapped, pinned him up against the wall with my forearm, gave him a headbutt and pushed him to the ground. He never bullied me again.
“As a child, growing up was difficult at first because I was very different looking to the other children, especially through primary and early years of high school.
“When I was going to primary school my hygroma was still very large, I had a tracheotomy (during primary school) and had some speech problems due to the size of my tongue.
“Growing up in Sydney, I was lucky enough to make a best friend, Gabriel Vivo, who made me feel like every other normal kid running around the school yard even through my many operations.
“From Sydney, I moved to Central Coast of New South Wales, which was to be honest the hardest two years I had, because of the many surgeries in those couple of years my face and tongue would flare up and down.
“I was being bullied a fair bit and found it difficult to adjust to my new surroundings. My father had taught me to never take anyone’s rubbish. I got into a few physical fights.
“After two years of living in Central Coast, we moved up to Queensland; again it was a rocky start with bullying beginning again and some altercations.
“But after a rocky start I found a life-long friends (Stuart Fishwick, Joseph Logan, Jackson Downie) which I still see to this day. I’m extremely grateful for this group of friends, as they stuck by me through thick and thin.
“I now have a UK-born girlfriend and she has been there for me ever since, including accompanying me to hospital appointments and supporting me through it.
“Cystic hygroma has affected me emotionally and most of all physically; you go through so many high and lows.
“I was worried about whether I would make friends like my parents did or be in a relationship like any other teenagers in high school.
“Now I believe I feel like a very grounded man; I’m confident, happy, humble and extremely grateful for the life I’m living.”
Alexander underwent numerous surgeries including one to remove 80 to 90 per cent of the cysts on the right side of his cheek.
He has had laser treatments on de-bulking of his tongue, 15 rounds of a drug (OK-432) from Japan that was used to shrink his cysts.
A truck driver asked him questions about his condition and asked to put his hand on his shoulder while praying for him. While Alexander has never been religious, he feels this interaction has had a comforting effect on him.
“I’m not a religious person but one day while I was working as a forklift driver, I was loading a truck and the driver saw my face and started chatting to me,” he said.
“Initially it was about what I had, how I got it, what was it like growing up etc. Then he said to me, ‘God is sorry that you have suffered, and he is proud of you that you’ve become a beautiful soul’.
“Then he asked if he could hold my shoulder and perform a pray for me. I’ve never been to church and I don’t one-hundred percent believe in it, but I certainly felt something comforting and spiritual when he performed it.
“Now I feel like every other person walking up and down the streets. My path was very different, and I had a lot of ups and downs.
“But my dad has always told me, ‘when you feel upset about yourself, remember that, yes, what you are going through is hard but there are other children in the world who are more sick than you’.
“With that always in the back of my mind, I don’t ponder about how different my life would have been if I was an average boy. I’m grateful and always positive about myself and the way I look.
“My friends and family taught me that being a good person is what matters the most in life. My advice to the younger people in my situation is, don’t worry, it will all be okay. It will be hard, painful, emotionally and physically tough throughout your journey but the ending will be great.”