Hillary D 1V7 19540601A

Hilary's Story

Hilary Dodson was born with a congenital haemangoima, undergoing major surgery at a young age that resulted in significant scarring.

A scar is a permanent reminder of something that happened, and that can be internal as well as external.

I was born at the end of 1949 with a congenital haemangioma (a benign vascular tumour) on the left side of my face. My mother told me that at birth the only thing visible was a tiny red spot under my left eye and a slightly mottled colour to my left cheek. Over time, however, my left cheek became more and more swollen, the result of too many blood capillaries and sinuses where the blood pooled. If I bent forward my left cheek swelled even more.

Congenital haemangiomas are generally fairly discreet and often disappear in the first few years of life. However, mine was extensive and involved half my face. It must have been very upsetting for my parents who didn’t know what to do. They sought help from a very eminent plastic surgeon.

Initially, aged 4 years old, I was treated with brachytherapy which involves the insertion of radioactive implants into my left cheek. This is not a treatment that would be used nowadays on a child as it damages bone growth. Unfortunately, the radiotherapy did not improve things. My parents had never intended that I should go through surgical procedures but because there had been no improvement, surgery was decided to be the next course of action. I underwent major surgery at six and nine years old that resulted in significant scarring. I have had surgery several times since to improve things.

I was always determined never to be defined by having a facial disfigurement and have lived a full life as an academic and now as a psychotherapist, the latter something I felt I would never be able to do. However many people have internal emotional scars that can’t be seen unlike my scars which are visible.

I am a wife, mother to two children, a daughter and a son and grandmother to five grandchildren. I cannot imagine a life without always having to consider the impact of a facial disfigurement on others.

The Scar Free Foundation with its aim to support research into understanding the factors involved in scarring to reduce or even to eradicate scarring has the potential to change the lives of those affected by disfiguring scars.

This was taken at the London Clinic in June 1954 a few months after the brachytherapy. The small marks are visible where the radioactive implants had been inserted (they were removed 48 hours after implantation).

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