‘I will work really hard to smile again’: Mother’s journey with rare disease

Sandra Liddell was diagnosed cavernoma four years ago. Picture: Contributed by Sandra Liddell

Sandra Liddell was diagnosed cavernoma four years ago. Picture: Contributed by Sandra Liddell - Credit: Archant

A woman has shared her battle with a rare brain disease and her decision to have painful reconstructive surgery to 'enhance her quality of life'.

Since she was diagnosed with cavernoma four years ago, Sandra Liddell has been determined to raise awareness on the condition.

The former beautician, from Henstead, saw numerous doctors after suffering from symptoms including pressure in her head, changes in her hearing and sickness before she was diagnosed at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge in 2015.

Not long after the diagnosis, her cyst began to bleed, her face dropped and she was rushed to London Hospital for Neurology to fully remove the cavernoma.The 56-year-old said 'it is unbelievable' it has been four years since her surgery.

'It is impossible to believe, where have the years gone? The last two years have been a challenge - every day is a challenge and battle, but life is about learning. I have a really positive outlook,' the mother-of-three said.

This year, Mrs Liddell will undergo labbé technique, which improves facial symmetry when the face is relaxed as well as when she is smiling.

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The surgery will lengthen and transfer a muscle on the side of the head which ordinarily moves the jawbone.

'I am a true believer and I hoped I would get my face back, but the damage is so severe,' she said.

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'The consultants can be really adorable and they did say it [the surgery] will enhance my quality of life. But I know it will be hard work with my jaw.'

After the surgery, she will be required to exercise the muscles to manoeuvre her jaw. After a while, her brain will take over the movement and she will be able to chew food and smile naturally.

'I will work really hard to learn how to smile again.'

The mother-of-three stressed the operation was not cosmetic but 'for the physical benefits and the quality of life'.

'With the facial paralysis, I didn't want to just stay inside. I just went outside back then, you notice people would stare.

'But we are what we are, we have to believe in ourselves.'

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