By Rebecca Chitolie


THIS TEENAGER has had over 100 operations due to a rare condition which causes her face to fall apart.

Student Abigail Marin (18) from London, UK, had a typical upbringing until the age of six when she was diagnosed with a facial tumour.

The tumour was very aggressive which meant her doctors had to act quickly with treating her tumour, which meant Abigail had serial surgeries to remove her tumour from age six until the age of seven.

Abigail in hospital bed as a child with pink toy.

Once her tumour was removed, Abigail and her family thought that would’ve solved the issue, but it didn’t.

Abigail’s face was not able to function properly without constant medical interventions to stop it from falling apart.

Abigail’s life changed through her new visible difference, which led to her confidence being knocked and isolation from her peers, which led to her being diagnosed with selective mutism.

Abigail eventually had a 17.5 hour operation in 2022 to create optimum functionality in her face, and for the rest of her life she will have to have small operations to maintain the function in her face. Despite these challenges she has faced, Abigail now sees her facial difference as a source of her strength and sensitivity.

“We all thought that everything would go back to normal but unfortunately it didn’t”, said Abigail.

“Because of all the damage my tumour caused it meant that my face was not able to function without constant medical interventions.”

Abigail now at 18 in black t-shirt.

Abigail said that initially her operations were to save her life, but now she continues to have operations to stop her face falling apart.

“I’ve needed over 100 operations on my face”, said Abigail.

“I had surgery for all different reasons but at the beginning they were mostly to remove the tumour and save my life.

“After the tumour was removed, my face was falling apart so all my surgeons over the years have had to operate to keep my face from falling apart.

 “In May 2022 I had a 17.5 hour operation to give me as much function of my face back as possible.

“For the rest of my life I will have to have small operations to maintain optimal function in my face.”

During school Abigail felt isolated by her peers due to her visible difference.

“I did have people in my school actively avoid me because they were scared of my appearance as well as whispering and laughing with each other about me”, said Abigail.

“Especially when I was younger I had a massive patch of infection on my face which people would just assume was a burn.

Abigail during surgery as a teenager.

“Whenever you’re different from other people it makes you feel lonely or upset which is a natural reaction.

“Being a child with a facial difference I became very withdrawn whilst in school and certain situations.

“As a child, it was really confusing. I had been looking like everyone in my school and suddenly I didn’t.”

This led to Abigail being diagnosed with selective mutism.

“Like anyone in my situation I did struggle and find all this quite hard to manage which resulted in me becoming a selective mute”, said Abigail.

“I was therefore diagnosed with selective mutism which is an extreme anxiety disorder that manifests as a social phobia.

“Lots of people with selective mutism are triggered by a traumatic event, which for me was all the chaos my diagnosis had caused.”

Abigail as a child in hospital bed with ipad.

Selective mutism is an anxiety disorder where a person is unable to speak in certain social situations, such as with classmates at school or to relatives they do not see very often.

Abigail said that despite her physical changes being the most visible, her psychological changes had the most impact.

“My parents didn’t know what to do, as there aren’t any parenting books about this, so they asked a psychologist for help, as well as tapping into a fabulous charity called Changing Faces”, said Abigail.

“My physical appearance keeps changing due to surgery but my changes were more psychological.

“Feeling pretty was a big struggle for me. I used to look at all my peers and the actors around me and feel so upset at the fact my tumour robbed me of that feeling of traditional beauty, I even used to hate looking at my face in the mirror especially when I was post surgery.

“At the end of the day I can’t drastically change what I look like so I had to find a way to change my mindset towards my visible difference.

“Like most people I’d love to look like Angelina Jolie or Zendaya but that’s unrealistic and I had to adapt and see the beauty in my what I call ‘abstract face’.”

Abigail reflects on how she feels about herself now and how she dealt with negativity.

“Most of the time I feel proud, feelings are complicated but most of the time I’m proud of my achievements and the person I’m becoming”, said Abigail.

“I had art as my way of expressing my pain which for me really helped me get through everything, I would say to anyone going through bullying, make sure they have an outlet.

“I like to think that through my life experiences I have grown stronger and more sensitive from every hard and traumatic experience I went through and will continue to go through.”