Woman's Relief After Having Bowling Ball-Sized Tumour Removed From Her Cheek

She queued for eight hours to get it looked at.

After fourteen years of suffering, a school teacher from Madagascar has told of her relief after having a bowling ball-sized growth removed from her face.

Lalao, 50, thought nothing of the small bump which appeared on her right cheek more than a decade ago.

But over the years, it swelled in size to the point where it weighed 11 pounds and prevented her from turning her head.

When a medical ship docked near to Lalao's village, she decided enough was enough and queued for eight hours to speak to health experts who put her forward for surgery.

She has since revealed how happy she is to be tumour-free.

Lalao before surgery
PA Real Life Features / Mercy Ships
Lalao before surgery

The mum-of-four had originally sought help from local doctors, but sadly there was nothing they could do.

Desperate, she queued for hours to ask if surgeons on board a medical ship docking near her village could remove the mass, which at this point resembled a large bag of marbles.

The school teacher said: "When I started to queue for help, there were about 200 people ahead of me, all with disabilities and conditions I'd never seen before.

"I wondered if they could treat people like me, but I thought, 'Even if I have to be in line for two weeks, I'm going to wait'."

Lalao first noticed the benign tumour on her face more than a decade ago.

As it didn't hurt or attract any comments, she didn't take any notice of it at first, thinking it would eventually disappear.

"The people in my village know me and my husband Albert well, and so they looked beyond my appearance," she said.

However, over time it grew bigger and bigger until she had to wrap a scarf around it to hide it.

Eventually, she couldn't even turn her head to the right and found it difficult to sleep.

Lalao was forced to hide her face behind a scarf
PA Real Life Features / Mercy Ships
Lalao was forced to hide her face behind a scarf

She went to the hospital and was told she could have treatment if she paid 400,000 Malagsy Ariary - roughly £80 - up front, after which she would be added to a waiting list.

However, later she was told that she couldn't have the operation after all.

She didn't get her money back and after being referred to a second hospital, she had to pay a further 400,000 Malagsy Ariary (£80) to be added to another list for surgery.

But again, she was told surgeons couldn't perform the procedure to remove the tumour.

At this point, after fourteen years of living with the tumour, it had grown so vast it weighed almost a stone.

"I gave up hope," Lalao said. "I thought I would never get help. We had no money and I was deeply discouraged."

Her husband, however, was determined his wife would be treated, especially after they learned a baby from their village - who'd also had a tumour - had successfully had it removed.

The baby had been treated by the charity Mercy Ships, whose hospital ship sails around Africa providing free life-saving surgery to people where medical care is nearly non-existent.

The couple watched a TV programme about the organisation and Lalao went to a screening day in Antananarivo, the capital city of Madagascar, to see if she was eligible for treatment.

She recalled: "I went and the queue of people waiting to be seen was endless.

"So I came back the next day and again, hundreds of people were ahead of me in line."

Lalao after surgery
PA Real Life Features / Mercy Ships
Lalao after surgery

Lalao joined the queue at three in the morning and eight hours later, relayed her medical history to a team of experts.

Her face was examined and within 90 minutes she had an appointment card for surgery onboard a Mercy Ships vessel, due to dock in Toamasina.

Her family had to sell a pig to pay for transport to the ship. But after so much disappointment, a happy ending was in sight.

She was admitted on 30 November 2015 and surgery was two days later, where surgeons removed the tumour in one go.

"The next morning, I just woke and it was gone," Lalao said. "Finally l was free of that big mass."

Her husband added: "I was so happy when she came back from the operating room that I cried.

"It was amazing that they could remove the growth in one surgery."

After just a few days, Lalao's face showed improvement. She remained onboard the Mercy Ship vessel for two weeks to let her face heal.

Now, she is feeling healthy and looking forward to getting her life back on track.

"I feel very, very happy. I'm in good health and now I can turn my neck," she said.

"I'm looking forward to returning to teaching and being able to help work on the family farm when I'm stronger, too."

For more information, visit www.mercyships.org.uk.

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