This story now
IN People ON 13 Sep, 2015
This is the story of a young girl Tambu Makinzi, a normal 27 year old girl, a loving wife and a mother of one, whose world went upside down when she was diagnosed with a rare bone cancer Chondrosarcoma.
For four long years she underwent a series of unsuccessful surgeries, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, but the tumor always returned more aggressive than before. It devoured her whole face. Lets see how this young lady survived this trauma and started looking forward to a new beginning. Tambu's story will feature on the Channel 5 documentary 'The Woman With No Face', on Monday, September 14 at 10 PM.
Constant headaches which were turning severe day by day were the first symptom of the disease she observed. Her fear increased many folds when her forehead began to swell.
Chondrosarcoma was diagnosed. It devoured her nasal and upper jaw bone, and displaced her left eye and robbed her off her sense of smell.
He said: 'The first time I met her was at a friend's wedding. I saw her and I was like "wow", the way she danced, I was like "she has to be mine".' They married a year later, when they moved from Zimbabwe to South Africa. Peddy says: 'We had dreams, she wanted to become a civil engineer and I wanted to do computer sequencing.' When their daughter opened her eyes in 2010, they were unaware that their fairy tale life story is coming to an end.
Tambu came to London where she met Professor Iain Hutchison. He runs the research charity Saving Faces, which is committed to the prevention and treatment of facial diseases. Professor Hutchison, a maxillofacial surgeon working at Barts Hospital in London, assembled a team of six surgeons to help him perform the pioneering operation to remove Tambu's tumor. First they removed 2 kg of tumor pressing her brain, eye and nose. Then, using back muscle and rib, the professor and his team rebuilt Tambu's face. It was an operation that lasted over 24 hours!
Prior to her operation, Tambu said, exhausted from carrying around the two kg tumor, 'I am young, I have dreams and I am not going to leave my daughter motherless. She needs her Mum.'
The 27-year-old was taken into the operating theater at 10.30 AM. Within the first hour, surgeons removed the first part of the tumour. Nine hours into the surgery, Professor Hutchison was preparing to remove the bulk of the cancerous mass. The growth, which weighed 2 kgs, came out in one piece. But Tambu was left with a huge hole in her face, exposing her brain to the elements. Without reconstruction she would die. In order to rebuild her face, Professor Hutchison and his team needed to remove two ribs to recreate her nose and jaw bones. And a flap of skin from her back was used to fill in the gap in her face. But, the crucial part for the surgeons was ensuring they had a blood supply to the flap, to ensure it could survive. First they removed 2 kg of tumor pressing on her brain, eye and nose. Then using back muscle and rib, the professor and his team rebuilt Tambu's face.
The Doctor, Mr.Hutchinson admits on a TV program that her life is still hanging by a thread. He says for him it will be a personal disaster if he fails. Failure doesn't happen often.The failure of the reconstruction meant Professor Hutchison had to take Tambu back into the operating theater. Her family had raised £30,000 to fund her travel and care and the surgical team gave their time free of charge. But the hospital costs for her stay still had to be met. With the prospect of a second operation, they faced having to kick-start their fundraising efforts. After the second surgery, Professor Hutchison managed to get a blood supply to a second flap of skin. Walking out from the theater, he told the waiting camera crew: 'This is not a normal situation. 'I am not going to sleep well tonight, I am not going to sleep well until this has been working for seven days.'
Though the road to recovery is long, she is prepared both mentally and physically. She says it is a long process, difficult too, but she will do it for pearl, her daughter.She added: 'It's a long process, I'm not 100 per cent but I am getting there. 'Nothing has changed, I am still the same old Tambu. 'If it wasn't for Pearl, I don't think I would have fought as hard as I have. I told myself I have to do this for my daughter. Peddy was there for me when this started and he's never left my side.' He added: 'I still see the beauty in her. She's still the Tambu I met, I am the luckiest guy to be in her life. She's still a beautiful person, inside and out.' Tambu's story will feature on the Channel 5 documentary The Woman With No Face, on Monday, September 14 at 10 PM.