After living with a massive tumor taking over the right side of his face, Lucas McCulley finally has hope it can be removed for good.
The 22-year-old from Nampa, Idaho, endured 24 surgeries as a child to try to treat the benign mass hanging from his cheek. Doctors told him they couldn’t operate again until his body stopped growing, but when he became an adult, financial issues got in the way of the 25th — and McCulley hopes — final and successful surgery.
“I don't really mind the whole being different part because everyone is different in their own way, it’s kind of a unique part of me it has made me who I am," McCulley told NBC affiliate KTVB.
“[But] I’m in pain from the moment I wake up and right until I go to sleep."
McCulley lost health insurance when he turned 18 and wasn’t able to get disability, which would qualify him for Medicaid, the station reported.
So over the summer, he created a GoFundMe page, asking strangers to help him pay for the surgery.
“I hate asking for help at all, but any help will change my life forever,” McCulley wrote. “I'm ready for [the tumor] to be gone so I can actually live my life properly.”
The tumor is a lymphangioma, a fluid-filled cyst. It’s non-cancerous, but the growth can disfigure affected areas and disrupt the function of nearby organs, according to the National Institutes of Health. Abnormal development of the lymphatic system is thought to be the trigger, but the exact cause is unknown. Some of these masses can be difficult to remove and can regrow after surgery, NIH notes.
Even though the tumor affects his right eye, McCulley’s vision is fine, he said, and he works part time in construction. His goal is to live a normal life and join the U.S. Army — something he can’t do now because recruiters told him he can’t meet one of the requirements: fitting a gas mask over his face, KTVB reported.
Surgery would “make my life a lot better in every aspect of the day, just so I don't have to worry about it, I don't have to wake up hurting or anything like that and just be normal,” McCulley told the station.
“Both my mom and my dad — it’s their life goal to see that taken care of and to see it gone and the burden off me.”
McCulley has raised more than $76,000 for the surgery as of Friday. He plans to talk with his doctor soon to find out how much it will cost.