A woman whose face was reconstructed nearly a month ago says she has cried a lot since the marathon surgery but thinks she looks "pretty cool".

"I like the way I look, I think I look pretty cool," Christine Brown said from her Invercargill home on Monday.  "I like that I have got no shaky baggy elephant down here [beside chin] and my ear is relatively even [with the other ear], but I am feeling a bit sorry for myself because I am a bit sore."

Brown, who praised the staff at Dunedin Hospital, said she had endured a lot of facial pain since the surgery and her long recovery was the toughest thing she had gone through. Pain medication was helping and she was spending a lot of time sleeping.

She was also struggling to cope with being a patient at home, rather than looking after others. It was toughest "not being able to be a mum and a wife", she said. Her husband Lee had been her rock, looking after her since they returned home after the August 15 operation.

"Having to rely on other people is pretty hard. I have never had to before, I have always helped others."

Brown said she had thought she would return to good health five days after surgery, but nearly a month later she is still sleeping about 20 hours a day and struggling with the pain and numbness in the right side of her face. She was confident the numbness in her face would eventually go away. She expected to have tidy-up surgery soon.

The quicker that surgery was done, the better, because it would mean her recovery would be quicker, she said. “I think it will be worth it when it’s finished,” a clearly tired and subdued Brown said. She was not worried that the top of her ear had died and would fall off, saying the ear’s purpose was to hold up her glasses and to hear.

Brown, who has lost nearly 5kg since the operation, said she was looking forward to the day when she again enjoyed her food, and, in the shorter term, being able to wash her hair.  She was going to wash it yesterday for the first time since the operation, having not been allowed to until then.

When she does recover she may have to look for a new job. She was working at the Southland Stroke Club for 15 hours a week, but had received a letter in the last fortnight saying the club membership had been declining and it was no longer viable to keep it going.

“I am not particularly worried,” Brown said, “I want to get myself healed.”

Brown was born with neurofibromatosis, which causes multiple tumours to grow on nerves in her body, including her face.

Taken from an article by Evan Harding The Southland Times, 12 September 2017 (abridged)