Baby with mass 'the size of a football' unrecognizable after life-changing surgery

(INSIDE EDITION) - A baby's life is about to change after he underwent a miracle surgery to remove a mass "the size of a football" from his left cheek.

Baby Bennett Westphal now looks like he has adorable chubby cheeks, thanks to a three-hour surgery that helped remove the fluid build-up that caused the growth.

"We were so lucky," his mom, Kari Westphal, 34, told SWNS. "There is light at the end of the tunnel."

She was just 18-weeks pregnant when doctors noticed her baby's abnormality due to a build-up of lymph fluid.

As Bennett grew in her womb, so did the tumor.

By the time Kari gave birth, the mass was enormous and threatened to push on his windpipe.

"I mentally prepared myself for the worst," Kari said.

For the first month of his life, Bennett underwent surgeries and different treatments to help reduce the size of the mass.

"We couldn't even hold him for a while," the mom explained. "We couldn't take him home and we needed help changing his diaper and other people were taking care of my baby for me, which was hard."

But, it became clear that Bennett's care would not be the most difficult part about her son's mass.

She said strangers on the street would point at his face and ask, "What's wrong with him?"

"People would stop us in public and ask questions," Kari explained. "Kids can be cruel so I think that was my main concern. Would he be able to handle people staring and asking him questions?"

By the time Bennett was 13 months old, doctors recommended another surgery that would remove most of the tumor, but warned the nerves around his mouth could be damaged if anything went wrong.

Luckily, the surgery was a success, and reduced baby Bennett's tumors to something that looks more like chubby cheeks.

"Now there is still a bit of pudginess on that side-the parts of the mass they couldn't quite get to, but nobody stops us out in public anymore, so it is nowhere near as noticeable," Kari said. "We were so used to seeing him with it so it was different at first, but I feel relief that we have gone through that chapter of our lives."