A UK woman with her face on fire finally has answers after years of being dismissed by doctors.
Charlie-Shannon Bedford, 20, had struggled with disordered eating since she was 12, but she never imagined it would leave her with painful burn marks and bumps all over her face.
The mental health student was living in such extreme pain that she could not lift her head and felt as if someone had “thrown hot water” on her face.
“It wasn’t until the lumps started appearing that someone actually checked my blood and found it wasn’t flowing properly around my body,” Bedford told NeedToKnow.co.uk. “My skin turned bright red, it was like someone was constantly burning my skin.”
Doctors believe malnutrition as a result of Beford’s eating disorder had affected his circulatory system, causing blood to pool in unusual places and causing “bright red” skin and debilitating pain.
At first, Bedford chalked it up to hormonal acne, but her condition progressively worsened.
“The lumps were on both sides of the chin and also on the cheeks, there was hardly any pus, but the pain was excruciating at times,” she recalled. “My face was constantly swollen, I could barely speak and my skin felt like it was on fire.”
His condition began to worsen in July 2020, and for the next two years he was in “hell,” with Bedford constantly trying to find new ways to relieve the pain, including medication and home remedies.
Meanwhile, Bedford was dealing with online bullies. “They told me she looked like a burn survivor, they told me she killed herself, they told me she had cancer,” she recalled of viewers on TikTok, where she shared her health journey. “They told me my eating disorder should have killed me.”
The connection between Bedford’s eating disorder and inflamed skin was finally made in mid-2021 when a particularly severe flare-up led doctors to run a blood test on her.
“[Doctors] I realized that my body was producing too many white blood cells, which was causing the blood to not travel properly through my body; it is also called leukocytosis,” he explained.
According to experts, leukocytosis (having too many white blood cells) can be a sign of an underlying infection or inflammation in the body, or a symptom of something more serious, like blood cancer.
Bedford says her symptoms started to make sense after she was diagnosed.
“I would get sick 24/7, it would hurt to walk, and sometimes even standing would take its toll on me,” she explained.
As of 2023, Bedford’s skin finally began to clear despite suffering from occasional days of dryness and inflammation. More importantly, she has “fallen in love again” with her appearance.
“I now realize that the number on a scale does not determine my beauty or personality,” she says. “I have since completed my recovery from my eating disorder, allowing me to get back to eating without feeling guilty about it.”
Bedford urged anyone who is suffering to reach out to those around them and seek professional help.
“As clichéd as it sounds, it gets better,” he added.
The determined woman credits her family and friends for seeing her through her darkest days.
“I am truly beyond grateful to have them in my life,” she gushed.