Woman who was accidentally set on fire says traumatic ordeal was 'worth everything'
| Last updated
Featured Image Credit: Featured Image Credit: Instagram/@sophirelee
Warning: Article contains graphic content
An inspirational young dancer who was accidentally set on fire while performing has opened up about why the traumatic ordeal was ultimately 'worth everything'.
Sophie Lee, from Lancashire, received life-changing injuries in 2018 when performing with fire for the first time in the US, despite taking extensive precautions before her act.
While she has only recently been able to listen to the song she was performing to when the accident happened, she doesn't see the ordeal as a bad thing because it changed her life for the better.
Speaking to Tyla, the 27-year-old said: "I think I've always been nervous working with fire, you have to be doing a very high-risk job.
"No matter how good you are, no matter how amazing how many years you've done it, there's always going to be that element of risk, there's always going to be an element of this could go horribly wrong. And for me, it did.
"I don't regret the decision of ever going into that job. I don't regret the accident. I don't regret anything that happened because it's brought me to become a better woman."
Explaining the safety precautions required before the fire-breathing act, she said they are 'very intricate'.
"We have to check the stage, check the environment we're working in, check our equipment," Sophie said.
But due to the air conditioning being put up too high as she performed that fateful night, the flames she was performing with were blown back in her face, causing a 'freak accident'.
"I had to pay the price, and I was up in flames," she said.
While Sophie had been performing with fire for a number of years prior to her accident, the most damage that she had ever received was 'a few grazes' and 'little abrasions'.
"I was at a charity event," she said. "I wasn't getting anything out of this other than the experience. I just wanted to do this to dip my toe into the real world into being an international performer.
"I was nervous, happy, excited, giddy, but also apprehensive of it.
"I just ran the routine over my head. I went over the things that I was gonna do and listened to the music over and over again.
"It's only recently I've been able to listen to the same song that I [performed to]."
"I feel like that song resonates with me so much [and] for it to happen on Easter Sunday, a day of resurrection, I was like a phoenix from the flames and came back, and [with] my whole vision of life changed."
Sophie said her healing journey was 'ugly', and while it has been a 'very hard' experience, there were some unexpected upsides to it.
"It's been humbling. It's been at times peaceful. It's also at times been a test of my ego," she admitted.
She said that without 'the killing of [her] ego' she wouldn't 'have learnt who [she] can be as a woman' and 'the magnitude of [her] energy' that she already had within.
Sophie's reference to the killing of her ego came from the physical effects of the accident and the complicated process of going through reconstructive surgery.
This was arguably the most amazing part of Sophie's journey as she 'became a case study in medical science'.
"My scar turned into a keloid [benign] tumour," she said.
"There's no cure for keloid tumours, and with my case, would [was] on my face here, and on my neck, the tumours grew so big that no surgeon [wanted] to touch them.
This is because the tumour could 'grow back bigger or there could be a chance of death'.
"So a lot of surgeons were hesitant to operate on me," Sophie explained.
While Sophie was initially thought she would have to live with her tumours, unexpected help came in the form of a pioneering surgeon who agreed to carry out cryosurgery.
This is a process which sees liquid nitrogen be placed onto her tumours to kill them off over time.
"He offered me exchange to be a case study for this kind of trial," Sophie said. "And since then, the case has been such a success that they are now able to offer this for medical patients on the NHS."
But it's not just people in the UK who are benefitting from the lessons learned from Sophie's case, it has affected change for people with keloid tumours all over the world.
She tells Tyla: "The case is now being brought forward to the North American burns Association, the European Burn Society, English, the British Burn Society.
"To know that I was a factor within change for medical science and the better of others, it was worth everything."
She also stressed that, for her, cryosugery was 'life or death' because her life was 'becoming unbearable' with the large tumours.
She explained: "At one point, I couldn't speak. I couldn't see. I couldn't breathe properly. I had an identity crisis as well as [I was only] 22.
"[It's a time when] you're learning about yourself, you're outgrowing old habits. And I felt like I was outgrowing myself at a pace that I couldn't keep up with. My identity kept changing.
"I was so lonely. I knew that fact no one in the entire world has gone through what I've been through.
"[But my loneliness] became my strength. Weirdly enough, it became my reason it became my purpose. It became my motivation [and] inspiration. I've learned that loneliness is where we grow."
Prior to fully healing, Sophie struggled to make decisions when it came to her appearance, and while she had considered breast augmentation for years, decided against it at the eleventh hour in 2020.
"I think the trauma of operations and PTSD of going through [reconstructive surgery] just overwhelmed me," she said.
However, after doing 'a lot of healing', she decided that it was something she wanted to do for herself at CLNQ Clinic to overcome her 'confidence issues'.
She decided to have the procedure performed by surgeon Mr Reza Nassab, the clinic's founder, who is accredited by the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAPP).
Sophie remembered thinking: "I want to feel fully within my own confidence," she said, and added: "And I did this for me, I did this, I didn't tell anyone that I want to do it.
"I just [told] my mum and was supportive to the whole process. I feel like I feel like I'm in my confidence, feminine energy era."
Sophie said that having now gone through reconstructive surgery and cosmetic surgery, she recommends anyone considering the former to speak to someone 'close to you that you can trust before taking those steps.'
Reflecting on her ordeal, Sophie said the biggest lesson the accident has taught her is that beauty really does come from within.
"Beauty is in your soul," she said. "Beauty is your integrity as a person who you are.
"When I was younger, [I thought] that beauty was about the things you had, how successful you were, how much money you had in the bank - the people around you."
For Sophie, her new understanding of beauty ultimately changed the entire direction of her life.
"It has taught me is to change my ideals of what I expected [in] life," she said.
Sophie is now thriving in her new career as an author and motivational speaker and said she values her connections with other people in a way she never thought possible.
"I'm a lot more accepting of what it is," she added. "What will be, will be."
However, she does admit that she misses performing, saying: "When I'm on stage, that's when I truly feel like myself."
But she has found a new purpose 'in terms of the work that [she does] now.'
"I help people and see people flourish," she said. "That is what brings me so much joy."
Topics: Real Life