Man born with face deformity reveals he might lose ability to speak

Man born with a rare condition that left his mouth and jaw deformed is forced to ‘choose between his voice and his face’ after being told surgery to alter his looks would leave him unable to ever SPEAK again

  • Zackery Brown, 28, from Tennessee, has cystic hygroma – a birth defect that appears as a sac-like structure usually located on the head and neck 
  • This meant he was born with a cyst on his tongue and jaw, which makes it hard for him to speak and makes his face appear super swollen and round 
  • He can get the tumor surgically removed if he wants to fix his appearance – however, it has potential to make him lose his tongue completely – and his voice
  • Zackery has decided against the procedure, since he said his voice is much more important to him than cosmetics
  • Growing up, Zackery was plagued with confidence issues and self-doubt – and he turned to video games since people on there couldn’t see what he looked like
  • He became ‘addicted’ – playing up to 14-hours a day usually – until his dad suffered from radiation damage and lost the ability to walk five years ago
  • It was an eye-opener for Zackery, and it made him want to live life to the fullest. He decided to stop playing video games, got two jobs, and started working out
  • He is now comfortable in his own skin – often sharing pictures and videos of himself to social media – and he is very excited for his future

A man born with a rare condition that left his mouth completely deformed was forced to choose between his voice and his face, since he was told the only way to fix his appearance would see him possibly losing the ability to ever speak again.

Zackery Brown, 28, from Tennessee, has cystic hygroma – a birth defect that appears as a sac-like structure usually located on the head and neck.

This meant he was born with a cyst on his tongue and jaw, which makes it hard for him to speak and makes his face appear super swollen and round.

He can get the tumor surgically removed if he wants to fix his appearance – however, it has potential to make him lose his tongue completely – and his voice. 

A man born with a rare condition that left his neck and mouth completely deformed was forced to choose between his voice and his face

Tough decision: Zackery Brown, 28, from Tennessee, was told the only way to fix his appearance would see him possibly losing the ability to ever speak again

He was born with cystic hygroma – a birth defect that caused a cyst on his tongue and jaw, which makes it hard for him to speak and makes his face appear super swollen and round

He can get the tumor surgically removed if he wants to fix his appearance – however, it has potential to make him lose his tongue completely – and his voice

Zackery – who said he is now comfortable with the way he looks, after being plagued with years of confidence issues and self-doubt – has decided against the procedure, since he said his voice is much more important to him than cosmetics.

Zackery – who said he is now comfortable with the way he looks, after being plagued with years of confidence issues and self-doubt – has decided against the surgery, since he said his voice is much more important to him than cosmetics

‘I considered having surgery, I went mainly for the voice. I sat down in the doctors office and I told him, I said, “If you can give me a choice between cosmetic looks or the voice, I would choose the voice,”‘ he told Truly recently. ‘I don’t care about cosmetics so much as I did the voice. 

‘I went thinking that it could make my voice better but they told me it would make it worse. I had to choose between my face, and keeping my voice. 

‘[The doctors] were like, “We hate to tell you this but if we operate on the tongue it’s going to make your voice worse. You’re going to have scar tissue.”

‘They said, “Cosmetic wise, if we operate on the jaw, it can force your tongue back more so that would hinder your voice more.”

‘And I said, “No, I’m good.” So I didn’t pursue that anymore. I decided to… be happy with how I am.’

Growing up, Zackery – who was homeschooled – said his parents ‘sheltered him a lot’ because they were ‘afraid of him getting bullied,’ and worried about how ‘people might react’ to him.

What is cystic hygroma? 

  • Cystic hygroma is a birth defect that appears as a sac-like structure with a thin wall that most commonly occurs in the head and neck area of an infant 
  • As the baby grows in the womb, it can develop from pieces of material that carries fluid and white blood cells
  • After birth, a cystic hygroma usually looks like a soft bulge under the skin. The cyst can’t be seen until after birth and sometimes is not noticed until the person is older
  • Treatment involves surgical removal of the abnormal tissue whenever possible. Other treatments have been attempted with only limited success, including: Chemotherapy, injection of sclerosing medications, radiation therapy, and steroids
  • Source: HopkinsMedicine.org 

‘I did have some bad incidents, like, one time I was in the library and there was a guy in there that went crazy,’ he recalled.

‘He was afraid I had something that he could catch. He was panicked and caused a big scene and it was horrible.

‘I didn’t really get to socialize with other kids, I had to basically try to figure out things on my own through the internet and it did make learning difficult.’

This incident, along with others throughout his childhood, made it hard for Zackery to socialize with others.  

He said he often turned to video games, since he knew that the people he played with wouldn’t be able to see what he looked like. 

He admitted: ‘I was very addicted to the internet. I played games like you would not believe. I would play like 14-hours a day.’

He started playing at age six and when he was given his first PC at 14, it fueled his addiction even more. 

‘It was so easy on the game to socialize with people because all they see here are characters, your avatar, if you will,’ he explained.

‘Video games was a way of escaping real life reality. People didn’t see me and didn’t judge me on there, that’s why I played so much.’ 

Five years ago, Zackery’s dad suffered from radiation damage, which left him unable to walk, so Zackery had to step in and take care of him. 

‘He went from driving, walking around the store to not being able to drive or walk around the house or even bathe himself,’ said Zackery.

Zackery said the video games ‘was a way of escaping real life reality’ and he enjoyed playing because people didn’t see him and didn’t judge him on there

Five years ago, Zackery’s dad (pictured with his mom) suffered from radiation damage, which left him unable to walk, so Zackery had to step in and take care of him

The situation with his dad was an eye-opener for him, and it made him want to live life to the fullest. He decided to stop playing video games, got two jobs, and started working out

He said ‘everything fell into place’ after he started looking for work and met new people through the process

‘I stepped in and started taking care of him. I took care of him for about five years.’

The situation with his dad was an eye-opener for him, and it made him want to live life to the fullest.

He decided to stop playing video games completely, got two jobs, and started working out. 

‘I started looking for work, and then when I started looking for work that’s how I met more people and everything kind of fell into place,’ he said.

‘I worked two jobs: one as a free loader and the other as a delivery service part-time. 

‘I had a $5,000 gaming set up, like, expensive, expensive gaming equipment and I sold all of it.

‘I was like, I’m done with it, I’m calling cold turkey on the whole thing so I sold everything and I only had a handheld device. Now I have nothing.’

Zackery started going to the gym because he wanted to ‘look better’ and ‘better himself,’ and he said he instantly felt a boost in confidence. 

He sold his $5,000 gaming set up and got a job as a free loader and a delivery driver for UPS

Stronger: Zackery started going to the gym because he wanted to ‘look better’ and ‘better himself,’ and he said he instantly felt a boost in confidence

‘Training helps me with my confidence by working out, becoming bigger, getting in better shape, physically,’ he shared


He said it ‘made him come out of his shell’ by helping him feel better about himself and ‘more confident’


Coming out of his shell: He began sharing photos and videos of himself on social media, which also helped him grow more comfortable in his skin

Now, he is determined to continue to rise at his job at UPS, and he hopes to become a manager one day. He also is excited to expand his Instagram and TikTok accounts

‘Training helps me with my confidence by working out, becoming bigger, getting in better shape, physically,’ he shared.

‘When I go in front of a mirror now and look at myself in the mirror, I’m like, “Hey. I don’t look too bad!”

‘I have been asked things like, “Do you need help out with the groceries?” I’m like, “I go to the gym and work out. I don’t need help with the groceries.”

‘I guess it just made me come out of my shell by helping me feel better, more confident about myself. It’s definitely a confidence booster.’

He began sharing photos and videos of himself on social media, which also helped him grow more comfortable in his skin. 

Now, he is determined to continue to rise at his job at UPS, and he hopes to become a manager one day. 

‘I love working with people. I do, I love everybody there that I work with and I try to take good care of the people I work with,’ he gushed.

‘I wanna get a big, nice house. A big, brand new Mustang. We will see where my life goes, I guess.’

He also is excited to expand his Instagram and TikTok accounts, and has plans to get into bodybuilding soon. 

‘It’s very important to be confident with who you are, confidence is everything,’ he concluded.

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