While Amy was abroad, her mum was diagnosed with salivary gland cancer. Surgery to remove the tumours left her with facial palsy.
When Mum got diagnosed with cancer and had her operation, I was travelling around South America. After being persuaded by my parents not to catch the first flight home and to carry on with my trip, I found it very hard knowing the difficult times my family were going through at home when I was the other side of the world.
On the day Mum had her operation, I was walking the Inca Trail. I had no phone signal and could only think of the worst. It was a massive relief when I finally got a signal and was able to hear her voice – slightly croaky, but okay. I wasn’t worried about what to say to Mum, as I knew she needed her family for emotional support – and I think I was a bit of an escape as I told her about my daily adventures.
I was lucky enough to have a fantastic group of friends travelling with me, who supported me in dealing with everything. I still spoke to Mum all the time, and she was the same person – despite what she was going through. I tried to show as much support as I could without being there with regular postcards, and presents (although I couldn’t afford to post them so she got them when I came back home)!
After the horrible few months that everyone had been through, I thought I would surprise them with my return. I turned up on the doorstep one day with my big bag and a bottle of champagne. (I know how to make my mummy happy!) When Mum opened the door, I was expecting the worst. I had seen her face a few times over webcam soon after the operation, but with limited connection, and she continuously told me how different she looked. But in my eyes she was as beautiful as when I had left, and she has been getting better every day since.
One thing I was worried about with Mum’s facial palsy was her confidence. She used to be at the centre of the dance floor, the first one to do karaoke and the last one knocking back the champagne. It’s safe to say that her confidence has taken a bit of a bashing, which is completely understandable. But I think that every day my mum is realising that she is the same person, able to do the same things and make the most of the opportunities she is given. Recently, there’s more of the old mum coming out – when we dance around the kitchen and take pictures in pretty dresses, it reminds us both that nothing has changed.
There are always going to be people who stare, just like they would if I went out in a luminous pink and orange striped jumper. But I don’t necessarily think this is rude: people are just unaware of facial palsy, they haven’t seen it before and they are curious. We all do it with different things – I experience it all the time with some of disabled children I look after. The one good thing about this happening to Mum is that she will make the most of the situation and use her experience to help others and to raise awareness for those dealing with facial palsy every day.
My mum is the smartest, most caring and selfless individual I have ever met. She is beautiful in every way. It’s not how you look that defines who you are, but your outlook on life – always be positive; after all, you never know what’s around the corner or how much worse it could be.
You can read mum Ali’s story here.
Disclaimer: Please note that views expressed are person’s own and should not be considered a recommendation of particular medical treatments, therapies or surgeries. We would always advise you seek advice from a health professional with experience in facial palsy who can assess your individual needs.
Last reviewed: 19-11-2016 || Next review due: 19-11-2018