This woman was cruelly branded a 'toad', but her haters aren't mocking her anymore
Her story is a reminder that we ought to treat others with kindness and develop empathy within ourselves
It is hard to imagine what Libby Huffer must have undergone when people bullied her for the medical condition she lived with for a long, long time.
Libby, 45, suffers from a rare condition known as neurofibromatosis type-1—a genetic neurological disorder that causes non-cancerous growths all over the body.
The disease is caused by a gene mutation which leads to the growth of non-cancerous tumors along the nerves in the brain, skin and other parts of the body. Current statistics reveal around one to 25,000 people worldwide suffer from the condition with varying degrees of severity.
Living with Neurofibromatosis
Libby, from Fort Wayne, Indiana, has lived with the life-scarring condition since the time she entered her teenage years.
Hundreds of bumps began to develop on her skin, at the time her condition reared its ugly head. After the first outbreak occurred, she became a laughing stock among people who bullied her persistently and labeled her as 'Lizard-Breath' and toad.
The bullying turned so vicious that she had to change her name from Elizabeth to Libby so that she could erase the painful memories of the bullying she had experienced all her life.
"I have been bullied and victimised my whole life because of the bumps all over my skin that cover me from head-to-toe," she was quoted as saying, in an article published in the Sun. "In school kids would pick on me all the time, they called me lizard breath and toad.
The tumors had already started appearing in her teenage years but began to multiply tenfold in 1993 while she became pregnant with her daughter, Lindsay, now 23.
"When I was a kid I found out I had it,[Neurofibromatosis] it made me worry about my future and what I would look like when I grew up. We have a history of NF in my family. I had a lot of birthmarks and knew that inheriting the condition would lead to tumors," she explained.
The worst part about living with the condition wasn't just the bullying or the ostracization, but the evident demarcation that was created due to her condition, when it came to professional opportunities and even love.
"After college, it took two years to get a decent paying job. It took a lot of interviews without call-backs and I worried it was because of how I looked. I haven't had a boyfriend in eight years, guys seem scared to approach me and relationships never seem to work long term," she remarked.
It was during her pregnancy that the hormones acted as a catalyst and accelerated her tumor growth. She was left covered with more than 6000+ non-cancerous tumors that covered her entire body.
Her condition was worsened by chronic pain that came with the lump growth. The tumor growth hurt her even when she tried to take a shower or hug someone.
"The tumors all over my back cause chronic pain, the nerves in my feet have a tingling sensation all the time which make it hard to sleep," she said. "They can even hurt from simple things like a hug or even if water from the shower hits them in a certain way," she added further.
"For the majority of my life I've covered up in long sleeved tops and trousers, but recently I've tried being brave by showing more of my skin. I try not to let it stop me. Someday it would be wonderful not to have to worry about how I look, or what clothes will hide my bumps," she was quoted as saying as per a report published in Daily Mail.
The journey to recovery
Despite undergoing numerous operations (10 in total) to remove the lumps, a major part of the growth returned back, much to Libby's disappointment.
Her last hope lay in a specialist treatment that guaranteed the removal of thousands of tumors in a five-hour session.
"It's amazing to imagine that in one afternoon I'd have more than 5,000 bumps removed and once I've healed, I would have nice, smooth skin for the first time in my life. While it won't stop them from coming back it would stop the ones I have already from growing more, it would be life-changing and I want it so bad so I can have a normal life again," she said.
In 2016, she started fundraising to pay for electrodessication—an avant-garde surgical method that helps in the removal of the tumors and prevents it from re-occurring.
The advanced electrodesiccation surgery in question uses an electric current to kill the neurofibroma tissue present in her body. One five-hour session costs $23,500 (£17,500).
Good news ushered in Libby's life last year when she successfully managed to raise the required amount of money that helped her get rid of 1,000 lumps from her face and stomach. The successful operation resulted in clearer skin that Libby hadn't seen herself in a long while.
Last June, Libby went through her second electrodesiccation surgery to eliminate the bumps on her face and the tissue causing the growth. To reduce the scars, she then had a C02 laser surgery too, which helped her in smoothening out the skin and reduce the appearances of the scars.
And the results are there for the world to see.
"I am very happy with the results and hope to have the rest of them removed some day. I have had about 1,000 of the fibromas removed so far. My friends and family say that I look great and they notice a huge difference," she explained.
The surgery was a success as the difference in her skin-texture is visible.
Despite the life-changing success, the path to healing is a long, arduous one for her.
"My life hasn't been any different since surgery other than I have raised lots of awareness for NF, which has always been my biggest goal. There's still a long way to go to heal the emotional damage I've undergone over the years, but I know that will only improve over time. The more surgeries I have, the more confident I will become and that will help to erase some of my painful memories," she concluded.
We hope you recover soon, Libby.
If you have any views or stories that you would like to share with us, drop us an email at email@example.com