When Sarah's parents brought their newborn daughter home from the hospital, they were overcome with joy. But at 8 months, Sarah's face began to change. A large tumor grew along the right side of her face, pulling her mouth downward and partially closing her right eye.
Sarah, now 17, has neurofibromatosis or NF, a genetic disorder that disturbs cell growth in the nervous system, causing tumors to form on nerve fibers. Along with the physical disfigurement, Sarah's disorder can cause severe headaches and blurred vision. There is no known cure for NF.
The teen has undergone three surgeries to her face and three on her eye, but her face is still swollen. She recently had yet another surgery, in which doctors attempted to remove the bulk of the tumor.
Besides the multiple surgeries, Sarah also has had to endure constant bullying by both her peers — who called her "fat face," "ugly" and "monster" — and even strangers, who warned others to stay away from the young woman. "There are some kids who call me names. They threaten to kill me," Sarah explains.
But Sarah fought back by posting a video online that explained how she intended to remain strong despite the bullying. On one in a series of cards held up to the camera, she wrote: "I wish people could understand, there is nothing wrong with me."
Another just shows a drawing of a heart.
To learn more about Sarah, check out the documentary, The Girl With Half a Face, January 29, 2014 on TLC.