A Slovakian man is preparing to undergo a second operation to remove the remainder of a 14-pound tumor from his face, Central European News (CEN) reported.
Stefan Zoleik, 47, has Madelung disease, a rare condition that causes fatty tumors called lipomas to grow around the neck, shoulders, upper arms or upper trunk. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Madelung disease most commonly affects men of Mediterranean ancestry between ages 30 and 70 who have a history of alcohol abuse, but non-alcoholics and women may also develop the disease. CEN does not note Zoleik's ancestry or whether he had a history of alcohol abuse.
CEN reported that Zoleik saw the first signs of Madelung disease in his 20s, when he began to develop a large jaw. Doctors later diagnosed him with the condition. One of the man's tumors grew from his ear to his chin, and the physical discomfort he suffered from reportedly compelled him to leave his job as a car mechanic. The disease also dismantled his social life: Zoleik's tumors caused people in the street to stop and stare. When his condition was at its worst, he became reclusive and spoke only to his close friends and family, CEN reported.
But that all changed when Zoleik underwent a five-hour surgery at the University Hospital in northern Slovakia, the part of the country where he lived, and had his original tumor removed.
"Since that surgery, my life has changed incredibly," he told CEN. "I don't know why it wasn't possible for it to be done earlier, but I'm just grateful that it has been done now."
Zoleik is preparing to have the rest of the fatty cells removed from his face, but doctors say the man will additionally require corrective surgery.
"Even after surgery, there will be cells that have kept on growing, and we now need to operate to remove those as well in order to fix it," Igor Homola, a plastic surgeon from the University Hospital in Martin, told the news channel.
While carrying the burden of the disease, Zoleik married, and has a son and daughter who he says have helped see him through his surgeries.
"Over everything else, it was my family who helped me the most," he said. "They supported me both before and after the surgery, and are my rock that also gave me the strength to recover."