WARNING: CONTAINS GRAPHIC CONTENT
A mum with a rare form of cancer refuses to wear a prosthetic eye after having to get one of hers removed – saying she doesn’t need to ‘hide’ signs of what she’s been through.
Emma Cousins, 34, was diagnosed with an extremely rare tumour called mesenchymal chondrosarcoma, with doctors telling her she was ‘the only person in England’ with the extremely rare, aggressive cancer.
It went undiagnosed as it grew behind her left eye for 15 years, until one day Cousins suddenly started to feel sick and went to hospital.
Cousins, from Sheffield, had to have her eye surgically removed, leaving a small hole in her empty socket, and later had an operation to patch up the area using skin from her leg.
But despite the fact she is now able to use a prosthetic life-like plastic eye, she says she would rather accept the fact that she has lost her own eye to cancer and identify as a survivor.
She said: “I am able to use a prosthetic plastic eye and it looks perfectly normal, however, I do not want to."
“For starters, it’s a lot of messing around with glue and you have to get it just right, and for very little gain.
“It makes me look right back to normal and what is the point of that I don’t want to look normal.
“I had cancer, I survived that, I don’t need to hide it. My daughter is another reason I don’t wear the eye, she hates it and hates seeing it on me.
“My children have been my greatest support through all of this and I could not have asked for more.
“In fact, one day [eight-year-old daughter] Megan was doing something naughty, something she shouldn’t be and she found the plastic eye in the same room as her.
“She came crying to me apologising, she thought I could see through it.”
Cousins was also left unable to walk and has to use a wheelchair to get around the house, while the radiotherapy she received as part of her treatment caused parts of her skin to die.
She is still getting used to life with one eye, saying her vision fails her even two years after surgery.
“There are some things that are still difficult to navigate,” she continued.
“Like doors, I have been walking through doors my entire life, but with one eye I always bang into the frame. I also don’t do drinks very well, I can’t pour milk without it spilling all over the place.
“I have come up with hacks like placing the mouth of the container to the edge of the glass every time. There are all these little things that were completely second nature to me that I am learning to do again.
“I have been given glasses to wear after my surgery so that nothing goes into and damages my remaining eye.
“However, the skin used to close my eye hole hasn’t healed properly yet, I have another nine months to go before I can wear the glasses.”
Cousins credits part of her healing journey to the cancer community she's found on Instagram, saying they are all ‘fighting a similar fight’.
“I started finding other people who have had the same kind of cancer as me when I was first diagnosed,” she said.
“The doctors had told me I would lose my eye and I wanted to speak to someone with experience to know what I was in for.
“I could not have imagined the support and community I found on Instagram.”