A man has undergone his 16th operation to reconstruct his head after suffering a huge brain tumour as a baby – and has found love along the way.
Richard Hughes was just six months old when doctors discovered a huge, cancerousmass inside his brain.
He survived a risky operation to remove the lump but was forced to spend the next 24 years undergoing reconstruction to his face.
Now, he is celebrating the end of his ordeal as he has successfully had his final surgery.
And next year, he plans to marry the love of his life Ffion after meeting her on a dating site 12 months ago.
His story is set to be told as part of an S4C documentary called O’r Galon: Tu Ôl i’r Graith, translated to From The Heart: Behind The Scar, on March 29.
Richard, a support worker who helps disabled adults and people with mental health disorders, told Wales Online : “You get used to the operations really.
“It’s a strange thing to go through and it’s never easy, but it’s an odd felling that they’re no longer going to be a part of my life.
“I’ve known some of the doctors since I was six months old. Now it feels like the start of a new chapter in my life.”
Throughout his childhood and teenage years, Richard was bullied for his appearance and the scars that surgery had left on his face.
At times the cancer was so aggressive that it ate away at his nose.
He believes those experiences encouraged him to work in the social care sector.
“When I was 15, 16, I’d go to Bangor on a Saturday afternoon with my friends and people would just look,” he said.
“Some would even want to fight me, thinking I was some kind of a boxer because my nose was bent.
“I was called all sorts of names growing up, like Michael Jackson and Elephant Man, and it got so bad that I ended up being home-tutored.”
I’m using that now to help other people through their hard times,” he continued.
“I enjoy helping people, even simple things like going out to the shops for them – even that makes a difference to people.”
In his teenage years, cartilage was taken from one of Richard’s kidneys and was placed on his nose in a rare, but pioneering procedure.
And after four failed attempts, surgeons at Aintree Hospital in Liverpool installed an implant to support the structure of his forehead which should allow him to live a normal life.
“The implants kept on getting infected, so the surgeons had to keep on removing them,” he added. “But his latest one is much smaller.”
Despite his low self-esteem, the 24-year-old, originally from Anglesey, decided to join a dating website.
And his gamble paid off when he met the love of his life, Ffion, on the site less than 12 month ago.
The pair are now engaged and are set to tie the knot in August.
“When she first saw my picture, she admitted she was unsure,” Richard added.
“She thought I was this thug because of all the lumps and scars on my face, but her cousin convinced her that there might be a back story to me.
“When I actually met her we hit it off straight away….”‘
He hopes the TV documentary will help people understand more about what he has to live with.
He added: “I’ve had a lot of people stare at me but I’d have preferred them to come up to ask me what was wrong.
“Having people stare at me and call me names was part of day-to-day life for me. These experiences have definitely made me a stronger person…..