Danniella Westbrook has said she is having her face reconstructed by NHS surgeons after she struggled to breathe in her sleep.
The former EastEnders star claims she has spent seven years looking for a plastic surgeon who would agree to rebuild her face - and was quoted £500,000 for the procedure - but has now been granted the operation for medical reasons.
Westbrook, 48, told The Sun: "I thought I was never going to get it done. It was only because I went into intensive care before Christmas. I couldn't breathe because I had a cold. There was a build up of fluid and after I fell asleep I couldn't wake up properly and ended up in ICU.
"That's why I'm doing this. I need this surgery to survive. It's not for vanity, this is about my health. It hampers my lifestyle on a day-to-day basis."
The soap star famously suffered damage to her nasal septum - which separates the nostrils - as a result of past cocaine abuse, and previously revealed bones in her face are rotting away due to osteoporosis caused by botched surgery.
Westbrook said that following her admittance to Intensive Care last year she was sent to Aintree Hospital in Liverpool where doctors said she needed the surgery on medical grounds.
Watch: Danniella Westbrook undergoes first stage of facial reconstruction surgery
She continued: "If you go to a plastic surgeon, they'll do everything faster. When you're paying it's quicker, but that doesn't necessarily mean you're getting the best result.
"They're doing it for me under the NHS now. I'd rather be doing it the way I am with very good, specialised doctors."
The mother-of-two - who was diagnosed with womb cancer in 2018 and given the all clear in April 2019 - said she feels "lucky to be alive" after battling addiction.
She said of living with her infamous nose: "It was my own fault. It's a part of my journey and a part of who I am."
Westbrook spoke out earlier this year to criticise the producers of EastEnders for recasting her character of Samantha Mitchell, without informing her.
It was announced in January that Kim Medcalf is to return to Albert Square in the role, first played by Westbrook in 1990, but also previously played by Medcalf between 2002 and 2005.
Westbrook, who returned to the soap in 2009 and 2016, said: "I’ve been known as Sam Mitchell for 32 years. But nobody at EastEnders contacted me to let me know they had recast Kim in the role. I was shocked because they do have a responsibility to tell me and someone should have.”
In February 2019 she appeared on ITV's The Jeremy Kyle Show to discuss her drink and cocaine addiction.
She admitted: "If I had the money I would be back doing 11 bags a day."