Teen With Half A Face Stands Up To Her Bullies - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Teen With Half A Face Stands Up To Her Bullies

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Sarah Atwell Sarah Atwell

YAHOO.COM - Sarah Atwell always listened to her beloved grandmother, who taught her to love herself. "My nanny always told us when we were sad to cheer us up, 'Be strong, no matter what happens,'" the 18-year-old told ABCNews.com.

But for Atwell, who lives with her family in Nova Scotia, that was a tough order. She was born with neurofibromatosis, which caused a massive tumor to grow on the side of her face. Now, the story of her psychological and physical transformation, "The Girl With Half a Face," will air on Discovery Fit & Health on Dec. 18 at 10 p.m. (ET/PT), chronicling the weeks leading up to her successful surgery to remove the tumor.

According to the Mayo Clinic, neurofibromatosis is a genetic disorder that disturbs cell growth in the nervous system, causing tumors to form on nerve tissue. These tumors can develop anywhere, including the brain, spinal cord and nerves.

The tumors are usually benign but can sometimes become cancerous. Symptoms are often mild, but can include hearing loss, learning impairment and cardiovascular complications because of nerve compression caused by the tumors. Atwell, like most with the disease, was diagnosed in early childhood at 8 months old.

Since then, she has had headaches and blurred vision and eight different facial surgeries. But the biggest struggle has been facing the bullies at school. "Sarah never noticed she was different -- she always thought she was the same as the other kids," said her mother, Tara Atwell, 44, who also has a milder form of the inheritable disease. "They didn't understand it was a tumor and thought it was some kind of horrible disease they could catch." READ MORE HERE: http://tinyurl.com/p84qtf9

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