Sarah Atwell: The girl with half a face

Most of us have something we are dissatisfied with, ashamed of, or would rather others didn’t see.

But for Sarah Atwell, from Nova Scotia, Canada, the reaction from others to her physical appearance forced her to go into hiding.

When Sarah Atwell was just eight months old, her stepfather Kenny noticed that her face was beginning to look different.

But no one was prepared for what would actually happen to her face…

Doctors diagnosed Sarah with a rare condition called neurofibromatosis, which consisted of a tumor growing on the right side of her face.

The condition, which can’t be cured, is often associated with the ‘Elephant Man,’ AKA Joseph Carey Merrick, a famous man severely disfigured.

As the years passed, Sarah’s tumor grew bigger, but doctors simply refused to help Sarah with what was required. It didn’t matter which hospital the Nova Scotia, Canada native visited—no doctor would perform surgery to remove the tumor from Sarah’s face.

-Sarah and Her Mom…>3

Posted by I Love Sarah Atwell on Thursday, July 2, 2015

Wherever Sarah and her family turned, doctors gave her the same mortifying message: removing the tumor would be too risky and Sarah should continue to live with her condition. 

“It grew with me. In my right ear, it’s kinda hard to hear sometimes, because it pulls everything down. My right eye is just a blur,” she said.

Over the years, the tumor continued to grow. Sarah suffered from frequent headaches, her vision became impaired, and had a hard time in school.


We can all recall being teased at some point in our lives; kids can be cruel and seem to capitalize on the smallest things when it comes to torment. But Sarah had to endure comments constantly.

“They didn’t understand it was a tumor and thought it was some kind of disease they could catch,” Sarah’s mom told ABC News.

Sarah’s condition meant that she was stared at wherever she went. 

”Almost every day at school sucks,’ she admitted. ‘My class photo keeps going missing. Someone takes it, I don’t know why. And it hurts. ”

Finally, at 16 years old, Sarah couldn’t take it any longer—and she made a viral video to let the world know how she felt.


In the video, which she posted online in 2012, Sarah wrote a series of messages on cue cards, including the following:

“I have had many surgeries, but I can’t notice the difference. I have very few friends I trust. I wish people could understand there is nothing wrong with me. I get called names all the time… she said and continued:

”I’m going to be STRONG. I try my best to not let things bug me… but it’s just so hard!”

The video went viral and  Sarah shot to fame overnight. When she woke up the next day, she received thousands of messages from supportive people, who explained how beautiful and brave she was and how she had inspired them.


Sarah hoped that her video can be helpful to other young people. She also wanted to raise awareness and provide support to those suffering from the condition.

But that’s not all. The video also reached a doctor who offered to help her with surgery other doctors had refused to perform. The Discovery channel also learned about Sarah’s story and decided to do a documentary abut her.

In the end, Sarah finally had the operation. Thanks to her brave decision to share her story, the young woman was offered a life-changing surgery.

Me and my Friend- Sarah👭

Posted by I Love Sarah Atwell on Saturday, January 23, 2016

‘I kept looking in the mirror and taking pictures of myself. My mom and neighbors were shocked.  We sent my dad pictures, and he was really happy.  He said as long as I’m happy, he’s happy.’

In a one-hour documentary on Discovery Fit & Health, the viewers could follow Sarah as she was going through several procedures to remove the tumor from her face and restructure her features.

After the surgery, Sarah was very happy.

”I kept looking in the mirror and taking pictures of myself. My mom and neighbors were shocked.  We sent my dad pictures, and he was really happy. He said as long as I’m happy, he’s happy,” she said.

Sarah, you’re absolutely amazing. Seeing so much strength is so inspiring!

It’s so sad that our society had to make this wonderful soul feel like she didn’t belong simply because of what’s on the outside.

But Sarah is a truly brave soul who stood up and refused to be defeated by trolls or the doctors who wouldn’t help her. Please share her inspirational story with your friends!