A woman whose face was disfigured by tumours has been given a new lease of life after kind-hearted surgeons performed £60,000 of restorative surgery for free.
Li Hongfang's physical appearance changed drastically after she was struck with chordoma, a condition which causes abnormal masses of tissue to grow.
The growths were so severe, strangers would recoil in horror and friends began ostracising her. Having spent all her savings on earlier treatments, Li was reduced to begging, telling frightened passer bys: "I am just ill. Please, I am not a monster."
A new lease of life: Li Hongfang has had surgery to remove her facial tumours
The mother-of-two was struck by the illness in 2001. The first growth appeared on her forehead, but because it was just the size of a fingernail, Li paid it little attention.
However, the bump continued to grow and in 2005 she underwent surgery to remove it. The disease continued to flourish however, and became so severe doctors estimated further surgery would cost 600,000 Yuan (£60,000 or $94,000).
Li and her family, from Tianchao village, Xianyang, northwest China's Shaanxi Province, were unable to even consider the cost and it looked as if the once-beautiful woman would have to resign herself to her fate.
However, after her plight was reported, a hospital in Xi'an, capital of northwest China's Shaanxi Province, offered to treat her for free.
Scroll down for more pictures of Li Hongfang before her surgery
Since leaving hospital a week ago, Li has embraced her new life, but admits she is still too frightened to look in the mirror.
She told Rex Features: "I feel my head is lighter and I must look better."
Of viewing her new appearance, she said: "I want to save the big time for when the surgery swelling goes down. It could be the best gift to me."
Chief surgeon Guo Shuzhong said Li's surgery had been a success and later in the year she will go under the knife again to remove smaller tumours in her skull, nasal cavities and throat.
At its most severe stage of her disease, Li's face had become totally distorted by seven huge masses and her neck was so swollen it hung down to her chest.
The deformity made eating difficult and painful, forcing the 41-year-old to survive on tiny mouthfuls of bread soaked in water.
Before the surgery she said: "I know I must live on, for my mother-in-law, and for my children, and for this family. I must live on".
Despite Li's fellow villagers regarding her appearance a bad omen and gossiping that her husband, Guo, Yingping, would leave her, he stood by his wife, saving every penny he earned as a farm labourer for her treatment.
Li said: "I am actually very lucky. My mother-in-law loves me as a daughter. My husband gives me love, and my children gave me a lot of happiness".
Suggested For You
SUBSCRIBE AND FOLLOW
Get top stories and blog posts emailed to me each day. Newsletters may offer personalized content or advertisements.Learn more