Woman's body covered in thousands of tumours

PHOTO: Woman's body covered in thousands of tumours

Thach Thi Sa Ly, a 35-year-old woman from a small, rural village in Soc Trang province, Vietnam, lives in constant pain and agony from the thousands of small tumours that have taken over every inch of her body.

Her body is literally covered by thousands of growths, some as small as pimples, and many as big as lemons or oranges, Tuoi Tre News reported.

They have taken over her legs, body, arms and face, and have even spread to her nose and even covered her eyes.

Ly lives a life that is unimaginable in agony to most, nearly blind because of the growths which block her vision and in constant pain that has robbed her of her mobility.

Ly, who's from a poor family in Ngan Ro Hamlet, Tran De Town, was born normal, her mother Thach Thi Sa Phai said.

"When she was born, she looked normal, like my other seven children," Phai said.

"But when she turned one year old, some small spots began to appear on her back, which looked like moles. The growths have expanded over the years and now cover her entire body," she added.

The lumps multiplied and grew in size as Ly grew older, and now, she has to rely on her 63-year-old mother to assist her in all her daily activities.

Phay said the family did not have money for medical help for Ly, so she had to live with her ever multiplying lumps.

When Ly turned 25, Phay brought her to Soc Trang Province General Hospital.

There, doctors were stumped when confronted with her condition, and told Phay to take Ly to a hospital in Ho Chi Minh City.

Unable to afford it, Phay brought Ly back home. From then on, Ly's condition only continued to worsen, and soon she could not walk properly.

At age 63, Ly's father Thach Teo is the sole breadwinner for the family of nine.

However, he only earns a meager daily income of US$1 to US$2 (S$1.30 to S$2.60) from catching fish and snails, or by working as a hired worker. He earns barely enough to provide for the stricken woman and her siblings.

 No cure

Too afraid to appear in public, Ly never went to school. Her frightening appearance scares neighbours and strangers, and no one dares to get close to her, Phay said.

Ly now lives quietly alone, with only family as company and no friends of her age.

"Maybe my daughter's condition depends on heaven's will," Phay told local reporters in tears.

Early this year, the Tran De Town authorities gave Ly a nine-month benefit - the only time the family has received an offer of help from the local authorities.

Dang Van Ep, chairman of the area where the poor family lives, postulated that she may be infected with Agent Orange.

Agent Orange is the code name for a chemical used during the Vietnam War.

According to local paper Lao Dong, there have been two previous similar cases - a 60-year-old woman in Ha Nam Province, Nguyen Thi Dang, and a 50-year-old man in Hanoi, Nguyen Dinh Chieu.

Both patients have been reported to have bubble-like tumours all over their bodies.

Doctors said the two patients had neurofibromatosis. Also known as von Recklinghausen disease, the condition is a genetically-inherited disorder where the nerve tissue grows tumours.

These tumours can be benign, or may cause serious damage by compressing nerves and other tissues.

Doctors in the reports said there are no specific treatments for the disease.

Indonesia's "bubble man"

Last month, a 57-year-old Indonesian man made headlines as Indonesia's "bubble man", as he has a rare skin disease that has left him covered in tumours resembling bubble wrap.

Chandra Wisnu reportedly chose to reveal himself to the public in a bid to save his children from a similar fate.

He is married with four children. His eldest son Martin Ananda, 32, and daughter Lis Candra, 26, have begun to show signs of the disease.

Mr Wisnu said the lumps first began appearing when he was 19, and had spread to his back by the time he was 24. By 32, his entire body was covered, The Sun reported.

During the early stages of the disease, his parents took him to see a number of doctors and dermatologists, who were baffled by the severity of his symptoms.

Doctors said the condition is genetic and may be caused by an abnormality in the nervous system that causes benign tumors to develop on the skin or bone.

He was prescribed a number of creams, but they did not help his condition. Unable to find a cure and his parents no longer able to afford the expensive medical bills, Mr Wisnu stopped seeking medical help and has become resigned to life with the bizarre condition.

One silver lining is that his wife, Nanik Tri Haryani, has stuck by him for the past 33 years despite his condition.

Wishnu asked his wife to leave him and never return when the disease first began ravaging his appearance, but she refused.

She said seeing him live with the disease was a sign of great strength, and not a weakness.

However, now Mr Wishnu has to worry about his children inheriting the strange disease.

"They only have some small tumours now, but they worry they will get worse," he said.

He has no money to take them to doctors for medical treatment, and hopes that revealing his plight in the media can help them find a cure for the affliction.

Mr Wishnu's fears are understandable, considering how hard life has been for him.

He said he has to endure people staring or avoiding him, and rarely leaves his house. When he does, he covers up his body and face and wears sunglasses, for fear of frightening or being ridiculed by others.

"People are afraid, they are frightened of my horrible face and worried they might catch the disease," he said.