By Jess Grieveson-Smith
A mum who was ravaged by cancer has chosen to have her eye removed in a bid to save her life after a rare tumour grew across her face.
Toni Crews, 29, was diagnosed with adenocarcinoma – a rare tumour found in the gland of her right eye – in July 2016 after she began to suffer from blurred vision.
The single mum-of-two who was later told the mass was cancerous and she would need drastic facial surgery in a bid to save her life.
After having her right eye removed, Toni was rediagnosed last November and underwent surgery that left her with 34 staples across her head as well as a skin graft across her eye.
But despite being initially self-conscious, she is now proud of her appearance and after flaunts her scars to show others how hard she’s fighting cancer.
Stay-at-home mum Toni, from Deal, Kent, said: “I was shocked when scans revealed the cause of my blurred vision and headaches was due to a tumour behind my eye.
“I was devastated when I was told the only option was to remove my eye completely.
“The first time round, I was able to have a false eye, and was taught I knew it would mean having a false eye wouldn’t be possible and my appearance would drastically change.
“But I knew I had to keep fighting for my kids, Charlie seven, and Faith, six, as they needed me.
“But my ordeal wasn’t over, last year in November I was told the cancer was back in the same place and I needed further surgery.
“After the new mass was removed, I woke up to 34 staples across my head, as well as stitches and I have a 12 inch scar.
“I now need radiotherapy treatment in a bid to save my life.”
Toni – whose tumour was found in her lacrimal gland – claims she was told by doctors that due to the mass being in such an unusual position that there was a 95 per cent chance it was benign.
She said: “I didn’t think too much of opticians finding stripes in the back of my eye but they sent me for an MRI scan and found a lesion near my tear duct.
“Because it was in a such a strange place, they thought it was benign – but after I got sent for a biopsy in July 2016, they saw immediately it was a rare cancer in my lacrimal gland.
“It was aggressive and chemo resistant – my only option was to have the eye removed.”
Toni underwent the drastic surgery in September 2016, but suffered a relapse in November 2018.
Since becoming a single mum to her two children, Charlie and Faith, Toni is determined she will remain upbeat for them.
Toni said: “I knew the cancer was back at the end of last year when I started to get pain in the back of my eye.
“After having the surgery, I had a skin graft
“But in the meantime, I decided to own my scars as I was becoming self conscious of the staple scars across my head and after losing my eye.
“I thought ‘why should I hide them?’
“Everyone goes through things, and this has made me strong.
“They’re like a trophy – these are the war wounds of my battle.
“I rushed to get back to my kids, and they’re so resilient.
“For the sake of my kids, I have remained confident, I even began creating eye patches, with crystals and ones that matched my outfit.”
Now Toni is battling the same cancer for a second time in her lacrimal gland and has undergone further surgery.
She has even created her own business out of creating eye patches for others who also need them, and begins her radiotherapy in a few weeks.
Toni added: “They’ve had to remove the tumour again and this time, they’ve had to put a skin graft over my eye socket, to try and reduce any chances of it worsening.
“But I won’t give up.
“My son wants to be a doctor now, to help people like me and it makes me so proud that I’ve been able to inspire him on my journey.
“I’m so grateful to the NHS – I’ll fight this, and be closely monitored for the next ten years.
“But this has had a positive impact on me, I’ve created my own business and become strong.”