Last year, 23-year-old Jessica Van Zeil was diagnosed with an aggressive form of ocular melanoma, a condition that forced doctors to completely remove her left eye.
In order to make sure they had completely caught all traces of the cancer, surgeons removed her entire eye and eyelid, which meant closing the socket - making most prosthetics incompatible with Jessica’s wound.
However, rather than dwell on the loss of her eye, the inspiring young woman learned to embrace her new look by wearing colourful eye patches.
‘After having my eye removed, it took some getting used to. The first time I saw myself in a mirror, was quite daunting. I was shocked at how “normal” I looked. It wasn’t gory and in its own way beautiful,’ says Jessica.
‘But whenever I went out, I always got lots of questions. So I decided I wanted to dress up my differences and make it something to really look at.
‘I bought the prettiest eye-patches online, bright ones and sparkly ones, anything that looked glamorous and caught people’s attention.
‘They became my signature look and I loved wearing them. When I felt down, I’d wear a colourful patch and would feel instantly happier.
‘Wearing my patches also gave me the confidence to go face the world. They were an important part of me’.
However, two months ago, Jess was delivered some devastating news – following an unexpected a seizure, doctors discovered the cancer had spread to her brain.
'I wasn't prepared for the news that the cancer was back, this time in my brain. It didn't seem fair,' she said.
'I was at home in the bathroom when I started to notice the little toe on my right foot twitching.
'Within seconds the sensation had spread up my entire right side of my body and I passed out.
'At the hospital, they discovered that the melanoma was now on my brain. I was completely devastated.'
The only way to treat the disease is with immunotherapy, a relatively new treatment that works by boosting the body's natural defences to fight the cancer.
The treatment will give her a 25 per cent better chance of survival, and her family has started a fundraising page to cover the $130,000 cost.
'Initially I outright rejected the treatment. 'There was no way I would allow my parents to take on a debt of over $100,000 for a drug that may or may not work,' she said.
But already the campaign has raised more than $70,000 of their goal
'Doctors don't know how long it'll be until the inoperable tumours start to cause pressure on my brain and affect me again,' she said.
'Despite my outlook still being unknown, I'm trying to stay positive about my future.'
Donate to Jess' fundraising page here.