Kelly Makiha is a senior reporter at the Rotorua Daily Post

Medical history maker Clifford loses final battle with cancer

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Clifford Llewell pictured in October last year following his ground breaking face surgery. Photo/file
Clifford Llewell pictured in October last year following his ground breaking face surgery. Photo/file

Rotorua's Clifford Llewell, who made medical history when his face was rebuilt after suffering cancer, went through more than most but did so with dignity until the end.

The 76-year-old, who was known as "the faceless man" because parts of his face and jaw had to be removed because of his cancer, died this morning .

His nose, teeth, upper lip and upper jaw had to be cut away when a large tumour was removed around his nose and jaw.

The quietly spoken pensioner used to wear a mask to hide his face so as not to frighten people.

Clifford featured in the Rotorua Daily Post last year after he underwent intense surgery by a team of experts from Waikato Hospital to rebuild his face.

His son, Steve Llewell, said today they would always be grateful for the medical team who gave his father the satisfaction during the last few months of his life of not being the centre of attention whenever he went out in public.

The process of rebuilding his face was an involved one for Clifford and his family, requiring more than 70 trips to Waikato Hospital.

"We have done everything possible for our dad."

For the past 18 months, Clifford lived with his son and his wife, Brenda Llewell.

However, during the past few months, the cancer took hold and Clifford lost his sight, which meant he also lost his three great loves - the TAB, Sky Sport and reading/doing crosswords.

Steve said they were unable to care for him properly once his sight went, so he was moved into Bupa The Gardens Rest Home and Hospital, where Brenda worked as a caregiver.

"I just really want to put my dad on a pedestal. He has gone through some of the worst times more than most people with cancer have to go through. No one likes to have their face cut off. He has weathered the storm throughout that and has been a humble man the whole time. I could go on and on about my dad."

Steve said his father's condition had got worse since Friday and the family had been keeping a 24-hour vigil since.

"He died at 6.55am today. I was sitting right next to him holding his hand."

He said it was his father's wish not to have a "fuss" for his funeral so there will be a short service and burial tomorrow at Kauae Cemetery at 1pm.

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