I am a survivor and fighter of Squamous and Basal Cell Carcinoma. I have been fighting Squamous Cell Carcinoma since 2007. I still to this day have biopsies and freezes on average every three months. The painful part of this story is that I created the problem. My own actions have led to pain, scars, surgeries, sticks, endless amounts of time spent at doctors and hospital visits, fear and constant worry from my family and friends.
I was an avid tanner starting at 13. I tanned in the sun and in tanning beds. I would burn on purpose because it set my skin up for a “base” tan. I have blistered, burnt, soaked and baked in the sun. All could have been avoided. Not by staying out of the sun but by simply applying sunscreen and keeping away from the tanning beds.
My first squamous was on my calf when I was 27. It was the size of a golf ball. Although I have a nice curve to accentuate my calf muscle due to the scar, it was the start of a very tedious relationship with myself and my doctors. I started my regular skin checks every six months and since then at every single visit, except for a small handful, I have had a pre-cancer frozen off or a biopsy.
I had worked in surgery for many years and thankfully I worked mainly in Ear, Nose & Throat as well as plastics. This allowed me to gain an immense amount of knowledge in skin cancers. Because of this experience and my history with Squamous, I was able to identify in the early stages the worst Squamous I have had yet.
It surfaced on my lip as a tiny pink bump that appeared to be a pimple but didn’t have a white head. I picked at it a little to see if I could extract any fluid and couldn’t. A few days later a tiny cauliflower looking tissue appeared on top of the “pimple.” I knew it was Squamous. I called over the next few days to get in to the Dermatologist and couldn’t get an appointment for over a month. As a week past, it grew considerably. It spread to the size of a pencil eraser. I walked into the Dermatology office and said, “look at this, it has only taken a week to get to this stage. I need to be seen right away!” They had a cancelation that day and I was in! Of course, I had a biopsy and it came back less than a week later that it was Squamous. I was transferred to a Plastic Surgeon and saw him two weeks later. Now we are at a total of 8 weeks. The size is now close to a cashew.
I went in to surgery for a planned frozen section, which was only supposed to take 45 minutes. Five and a half hours later I woke up after five frozen sections, and half my lip along with a good portion of my cheek was gone. I knew it was bad when I realized I had little mobility with moving my mouth when I tried to ask the nurse, “Do I look like Kylie Jenner?” Her facial expression and my husband’s response to that question also led me to the conclusion that it wasn’t good.
So, after three corrective surgeries and more to come, I now have a huge scar, an odd shaped lip, I drool, have speech issues with certain words, tooth decay and nightmares of me on the surgical table.
If I could only go back. I can’t and I know that, but it kills me to think about how avoidable this is. I am now sharing awareness for skin cancer and skin checks. I have made the most of it with the love and support of my family and friends, but I will always never have me back. I will always regret not wearing red lipstick more. I will always miss not kissing my husband more. I will always regret.