It took Rhiana Powell a while to adjust to her new face.
The 34-year-old has always been a beauty junkie and loves trying on the latest looks and testing the latest makeup products.
But after a devastating diagnosis led to her undergoing major life-saving surgery, doctors removed her left eye and replaced it with skin, leaving her right eye untouched.
It took her a while to accept such a big change in her facial structure.
But what was even harder for Rhiana to overcome was how she was treated in public.
She revealed that strangers mostly stare at her, while some even gave their names.
“I’ve been called a freak and people will actively avoid me like I’m a wild animal,” Rhiana told news.com.au.
“Little kids will stare at me and ask why my face looks the way it does. But I use it as a chance to clarify.
“Kids are always open to hearing about it, but adults either just pretend I don’t exist or call me names.
“They think I’m a vagrant and treat me like a horror movie character from a nightmare. They cover their eyes and turn away from me.
“I’ve gotten people to take pictures of me on their phones and I’m trying really hard to ignore it. But there were times when I asked them if they had any respect.
“It’s not like I’m some animal in a zoo. You don’t have to take pictures of me.”
Rhiana. originally from Perth but now living in Sydney, said she felt like something was “wrong” with her body for a long time before she was diagnosed with end-stage brain cancer and given three months to heal 2016 to live again.
She explained that she often experiences a strange numbness on the left side of her face, but doctors attributed this to possible previous trauma to the area that was affecting her nervous system.
Rhiana said it had evolved over the years and would start to feel her face being tasered.
“I found it hard for any GP to listen to me,” she said.
“But I kept going back because I just knew something was wrong. I had been feeling bad for many years and it just kept getting worse.
“Eventually they discovered I had a rare type of brain tumor growing between the nerve between my eye and my brain.”
Rhiana says no doctor was willing to operate on her due to the risk of the complicated surgery going wrong.
Faced with the terrifying reality of dying before the age of 30, she raised money and flew to Sydney to visit world-renowned neurosurgeon Charlie Teo.
dr Teo removed the tumor in December 2017, but Rhiana was forced to sacrifice her left eye due to the cancer’s delicate location.
Unfortunately, she suffered a host of complications after the life-changing surgery.
Rhiana developed a cerebrospinal fluid leak — which is essentially a hole in the membrane that protects the brain and spinal cord — which gave her a debilitating headache and meant she couldn’t lie flat because fluid leaked from her brain out of her ears and her mouth would leak out.
This also sparked a case of bacterial meningitis, which is common in people suffering from CSF leaks.
“The surgery cost $150,000 and I was grateful to be able to crowdfund half of that,” she explained.
“There was still so much to pay, but I’m just so grateful to be alive.
“Nobody was willing to operate on me at such a young age, so I’m grateful that Dr. Teo took the risk.”
A lover of all things makeup and beauty, Rhiana said it took her some time to fall in love with her passion again.
Although she says there are days when she has a hard time feeling beautiful, she tries to keep a positive attitude.
“Some moments are harder than others when it comes to my confidence,” she revealed.
“I’m still passionate about hair and makeup and enjoy doing my own makeup. I usually call this a mask.
“It hasn’t affected my dating life too much, I still meet men and enjoy it.
“But I’m not really looking for anything serious right now. After all of this, I’m still trying to find myself and figure out who I am.”
Originally published as a woman who lost her eye, she reveals how strangers treat her