Kermit the Frog famously sang that it is not easy being green. An 87-year-old woman in China is also coming to grips with being unique, having been dubbed the ‘unicorn woman’ by her fellow villagers. What started out eight years ago as a small, black mole has morphed into a pointed protuberance right in the middle of the woman’s head.
According to her son, Liang Xiuzhen’s problems began nearly a decade ago when a small mole on her head became incredibly itchy. Over the years, it increased in redness and the itchiness persisted until using traditional Chinese medicine brought a cure. Or so they thought. For the next six years the situation appeared normal, until the mole suddenly started to grow.
While the itchiness did not return, the mole hardened and before long, a small growth developed, about two inches long, that resembled a horn. Villagers in Guiyan, near Ziyang City in the southwestern part of China, began to shun Liang. Unsure of what underlying problem was causing the issue, the family continued to use traditional Chinese medicine to stem the problem before it got worse. Unfortunately, after the two inch horn was accidentally broken off while Xiuzhen was sleeping, the growth kicked into overdrive.
Beginning in February, the growth of a new horn began with great speed. Now, barely six months later, the current horn is six inches long, with a circumference of eight inches. Realizing that their traditional Chinese medical efforts were not enough, the family consulted doctors at a hospital in the Sichuan province. Officially diagnosed as cornu cutaneum, the horn is actually a skin tumor composed of keratin, the same protein that makes fingernails hard. Elderly people are more likely to develop these tumors if they have a history of excessive sun exposure.
As Xiuzhen cannot sleep, and the tumor bleeds occasionally, doctors are ready to operate and remove the unicorn horn from the woman’s head. However, her family is concerned that the 87-year-old may not recover from the surgery and are looking into alternative treatments. Fellow villagers are happy that the surgery has been postponed, feeling that they need more time to come up with a new nickname since calling a hornless Xiuzhen ‘horse woman’ wouldn’t make much sense. Plus, China already has a horned goat woman, so the new moniker will take some creativity.