It took a little while for Rhiana Powell to get used to her new face.
The 34-year-old has always been a beauty junkie, and loves trying out all the latest looks and testing the newest makeup products.
But after a devastating diagnosis led her to having major lifesaving surgery, doctors removed her left eye and replaced it with skin, while her right eye has remained untouched.
Such a major change to her facial structure took her a little while to accept.
But what was even harder for Rhiana to overcome was how she has been treated while out in public.
She revealed that strangers will more often than not stare at her, while some have even called her names.
“I’ve been called a freak, and people will actively avoid me like I’m a savage animal,” Rhiana told news.com.au.
“Little children will stare at me and ask why my face looks the way it does. But I use it as an opportunity to educate.
“Kids are always open to hearing about it, but adults either just pretend I don’t exist or verbally abuse me.
“They think I’m some hobo, and treat me like a nightmare horror movie character. They put their hands over their eyes and turn away from me.
“I’ve had people take pictures of me on their phone, and I try hard to ignore it. But there have been times where I’ve asked them if they have any respect.
“It’s not like I’m some animal in a zoo. You don’t need to take photos of me.”
Rhiana. who is originally from Perth but now lives in Sydney, said she felt something was “off” in her body for a long time before being diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and given three months to live back in 2016.
She explained that she would often feel a strange numbness in the left side of her face, but doctors put it down to possible past trauma to the area that was having an affect on her nervous system.
Rhiana said it progressed over the years, and would start to feel her face was being tasered.
“I found it hard for any GP to listen to me,” she said.
“But I kept going back because I just knew something wasn’t right. I had felt off for many years, and it just kept getting worse.
“Eventually they discovered that I had a rare type of brain cancer growing between the nerve between my eye and brain”
Rhiana says no doctors were willing to operate on her due to the risk of the complicated surgery going wrong.
Faced with the terrifying reality of dying before she hit 30, she raised money and flew over to Sydney for a visit with world-renowned neurosurgeon Charlie Teo.
Dr. Teo removed the tumour in December 2017, but Rhiana was forced to sacrifice her left eye in the process due to the delicate position of the cancer.
Sadly, she has suffered a multitude of complications following the life-changing surgery.
Rhiana developed a cerebrospinal fluid leak – which is essentially a hole in the membrane protecting the brain and spinal cord – which left her with crippling headaches and meant she cannot lie down flat because fluid from her brain would leak from her ears and mouth.
This also sparked a case of bacterial meningitis, which commonly occurs in people who suffer from cerebrospinal fluid leaks.
“The surgery cost $150,000, and I was thankful to source half of that through crowd funding,” she explained.
“It was still so much to pay, but I’m just so grateful to still be alive.
“Nobody was game to operate on me being so young, so I am thankful that Dr. Teo took the risk.”
As a lover of all things makeup and beauty, Rhiana said it took time for her to fall back in love with her passion.
While she says there are days she finds it difficult to feel beautiful, she tries to keep a positive mindset.
“Some moments are harder than others when it comes to my confidence,” she revealed.
“I still do get excited about hair and makeup, and enjoy doing myself up. I usually call this a mask.
“It hasn’t affected my dating life too much, I still meet men and enjoy myself.
“But I am not really looking for anything serious at the moment. I’m still trying to find myself and discover who I am after all of this.”