After a four-year ordeal involving a rapidly growing tumor on his face, Michael Mahusay is smiling again.
At a news conference on Thursday marking the end of his treatment at Hualien Tzu Chi Hospital., Mahusay, a 26-year-old from the Philippines, said he first discovered the bone-textured mass on his upper left jaw in 2015.
Within two years, the tumorous growth had fundamentally altered his life: He had trouble eating and speaking, and had to cover his face with a bandanna in public.
Finally, his girlfriend left him, taking their young son with her, Mahusay said.
In September 2017, Mahusay visited a free medical consultation service at Pedro Guevarra Elementary School in Manila, where doctors from the Tzu Chi International Medical Association (TIMA) recommended surgery to remove the tumor.
TIMA, a branch of the Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation, which offers medical outreach services in 15 countries, arranged for Mahusay to be flown to Hualien Tzu Chi Hospital for treatment.
When Mahusay arrived in Hualien in June, doctors devised a plan to remove the tumor and reconstruct parts of his face.
According to ear, nose and throat specialist Chen Peir-rong (陳培榕), Mahusay suffered from a cemento-ossifying fibroma, a benign but often fast-growing facial tumor composed of cementum, bone and fibrous matter.
Although such tumors rarely exceed 5cm, Mahusay’s tumor, at 12cm, was something his team had seen only seen a handful of times in more than a decade at Tzu Chi Hospital, Chen said.
To complicate matters, the tumor’s size and depth had deformed the bone structure of Mahusay’s jaw, nose and forehead, so there was a significant chance that he could lose too much blood during surgery, and if doctors failed to completely extract the tumor, it could regrow, he said.
In the end, Mahusay required nine surgeries over four months — a complex and onerous process that doctors explained publicly for the first time on Thursday.
Mahusay said he was happy to be breathing and eating without difficulty again.
After thanking his doctors, Mahusay said he was looking forward to returning home, to finding a job and supporting himself, and most importantly, reuniting with his seven-year-old son.
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