Gran Left With Thousands Of 'bubble' Tumours On Her Face And Body Due To Incurable Skin Condition

Gran Left With Thousands Of 'bubble' Tumours On Her Face And Body Due To Incurable Skin Condition
by Ian Leonard
Charlotte Hawkins, who suffers from Type 1 neurofibromatosis, has opened up about living with the disorder, which she says has been known to 'terrify' children

A gran has told of her struggle to be accepted after an incurable skin condition left her with thousands of bubble-like tumours all over her face and body.

Charlotte Hawkins was once a beautiful twenty-something with pin-up curls and a clear, flawless complexion.

But when she discovered a lumpy patch of skin at the bottom of her back, she could never have predicted the devastating outcome.

Within ten years, the mum-of-one was barely recognisable after bubble-like tumours grew, covering her body and face.

The 64-year-old lives with America's worst case of the incurable disorder Type 1 neurofibromatosis.

She has learned to live with her appearance, but says that living with the extreme condition as a young woman was hard.

Loving gran: Charlotte with pet cat

Charlotte, who lives in a trailer in Loganville, Georgia, said: "First I got scared. I didn't know how people were going to react when they saw me.

"When I would go out it was kind of rough - people would stare at me."

The strange growths began to appear when Charlotte was 15.

She underwent surgery to have them removed but the pronounced lumps later reappeared.

Charlotte had a child and married but the disease became worse and she eventually separated from her husband.

However, her case was so severe, the lumps began spreading and it was no longer possible to keep removing them.

Suffering from depression and struggling with being a single mum, Charlotte's condition became increasingly difficult to deal with in her 30s as people were starting to notice her condition.

Struggle: Charlotte Hawkins says people often stare at her

She was left traumatised when she 'terrified' a child in the supermarket with her face - an event which resulted in her spending many years as a recluse.

She said: "I was in Walmart and this little boy when he saw me, he started screaming and crying.             

"And his mother had to go and I hurried to get out of the store. I was walking out from what I can remember but he was having a fit."

For years Charlotte kept a quiet life, until she was contacted by her local church and was finally made to feel accepted in the community.

Charlotte began helping out at the church's playgroup, telling stories and teaching prayers to the youngsters. Working with the children turned her life around, as the toddlers accepted her without question and treated her the same as everyone else.

Now Charlotte is a happy grandmother of three and loves babysitting for neighbours' children in the caravan park where she lives.

"I love children," she said. "I live in a great community. I love playing with the kids and reading them stories. They help to make me feel young."

Sunday school: Where Charlotte helps out

Discussing Charlotte's medical case, neurologist Dr Coruna Shah said: "Neurofibromatosis is a genetic condition and it is passed on in families by an abnormal gene that is present in a chromosome.

"Charlotte comes for regular check ups. What we do is check all the individual tumours to see there has been no change in growth or size of the tumours.

"We also look into her eyes and make sure there is no loss of vision in her eyes, as there can be tumours of the optic nerve in the back of the eye and can cause her to go blind.

"It's always going to be a challenge as she gets older because her vision is going to change."

It's now nearly 49 years since Charlotte developed her first tumour and she is happy that her son Charlie and three grandchildren are completely healthy and show no signs of developing the condition.

Charlotte's story will appear in a new series of Body Bizarre, which airs every Thursday at 9pm on TLC

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