I have skin cancer. Well, I HAD skin cancer, but now it is gone. A Mohs surgeon dug a giant hole to remove the skin cancer from the side of my face. As I recover from the surgery, I cannot help but reflect on the scary fact I spent over nine months ignoring Basal Cell Carcinoma on my face.
WARNING: There are graphic photos of skin cancer in this post.
There are certain types of people at high risk for skin cancer and I’m one of them. I have light skin that burns easily, lots of freckles, and green eyes. One way to detect skin cancer early is to visit a dermatologist for a skin cancer screening. Unfortunately I skipped last year while my doctor was out on maternity leave even though I had a strange spot on my cheek by my ear.
What does skin cancer look like?
Skin cancer doesn’t look one way – it can present itself in too many ways to count. There are also multiples types of skin cancer only a doctor or biopsy can diagnose. For me – my skin cancer started as a very small skin colored bump. I thought it was a pimple, but the pimple wouldn’t pop.
Within a month, I watched as multiple small bumps formed in a shiny circle around a flat center. At no point did I think this could be skin cancer.
How do you not know you have skin cancer?
During a routine visit to my aesthetician for a facial she mentioned the spot could be a group of clogged pores. She attempted an extraction, but nothing would come out. She advised I see a dermatologist instead of aggravating the area. I was seeing a plastic surgeon for Botox and thought I’d ask his opinion the following month, but picked at the spot anyways. When I squeezed the bumps, they expressed oil and then bled. I left the spot alone, but the area formed a scab.
Before the spot turned into a scab it looked EXACTLY like the Google search image for Basal Cell Carcinoma.
A month later I showed my plastic surgeon the area at my Botox appointment. He predicted the spot to be an aggravated cyst, but said, “It’s too angry to touch.” He would be able to remove it once I gave the area three months to heal. This is what it looked like:
Within a few weeks I was in bed with Covid-19 and forgot about the scabbed over spot. The only time I remembered it was there was when it would bleed if I slept on the right side of my face.
Once I was healed from Covid and realized the spot on my face wasn’t healing I finally called a doctor. If you’re wondering what took me so long to seek medical advice – I have something called health anxiety. It’s not excuse, but it’s why I was so negligent of the spot.
I am very lucky to have a friend who owns a Dermatology Center in our town. As previously mentioned, she was out on maternity during the beginning of my skin problems. I was able to get an appointment quickly after I had my antibody test.
My appointment would not be until after I went on vacation though. I tried to keep my spot covered, but you can see it below in one of our family photos. The reddish brown spot by my ears – that’s skin cancer.
I arrived at my appointment extremely anxious since I hate anything to do with local anesthesia. It’s necessary to numb the area for the biopsy though. My friend took one look at the spot and predicted it was Basal Cell Carcinoma. Truthfully I had no idea what that meant beside the fact that I could have skin cancer.
The numbing process is rather uncomfortable. First there is a prick of the needle and then burning sensation with the injection of the anesthetic. I know plenty of people who say this isn’t painful, but I’m a big baby. While the anesthesia set in my friend explained she would remove the scabbed area with a tiny blade first. Then she would obtain a sample of the spot by scraping away at the area until she had enough to send to the lab.
The appointment was quick. I stayed for awhile afterwards to ask my dermatologist about the next steps if the biopsy showed skin cancer. My friend said there are two options. The first option removes the top layer of skin and burns the cancer with an electric needle. This is called a C and E treatment and is best for small basal cell carcinomas.
The second option is Mohs Surgery. This may be recommended if your basal cell carcinoma has a higher risk of recurring. Mohs Surgery is recommended if the BCC is larger, extends deeper in the skin or is located on your face.
My biopsy results came back in less than two weeks – positive for Basal Cell Carcinoma. My initial reaction was to cry – not because I have cancer, but because I ignored the spot for so long. I immediately decided to schedule a Mohs Surgery due to the size and location of the cancer.
Basal Cell Carcinoma is the most common form of cancer and is usually easily treatable. This cancer is most often found in areas exposed to the sun, such as the head, neck, and arms. The common consensus from my Dermatologist and Surgeon is that I most likely caused this cancer myself – from a tanning bed.
What I Know about Basal Cell Carcinoma
I’m not an expert in Basal Cell Carcinoma, but I’m learning details about the skin cancer quickly. There is no sure way to prevent BCC because some risk factors cannot be controlled – age, family history, etc. However there are some things you can do to lower the risk.
- Limit your exposure to UV rays.
- Avoid tanning beds and sun lamps.
- Wear sunscreen on your face daily and cover your body with sun protective clothing if you’re going to be in the sun.
- Check your skin regularly.
- Visit the dermatologist once a year for a full body scan – Watch a video of me getting one here.
While I currently recover from an invasive Mohs Surgery, I am taking photos of the wound and how it heals. I will share the details of my surgery and recovery in another post. In the meantime, schedule yourself a skin cancer screening. Don’t ignore your skin!
You know I am relieved that you went. I knew it was not good but it had to be you to bring yourself there. This will pass and you will have learned a valuable lesson, never wait. I love you and am glad that this will heal and you will be good again soon.
Just wondering Cait, why they had to give you such a long scar like they did?
Laura Leigh says
Definitely making a point to schedule an appointment to have my skin screened. I have been meaning to for soo long and just haven’t made it happen. Thank you for the push to do so! Thank you for sharing this with us as well. Thinking of you gal!
xo Laura Leigh
Wow! I’m so sorry to hear you had cancer. I can relate bc I have cancer and it is a roller coaster. But I’m so glad to hear the type you got is treatable and hopefully more and more people can be aware. Hope recovery is going well!
Thank you for sharing your story Caitlin. I’m certain you’re going to help a lot of people in being so open about your journey!
Auntie M says
Oh my….I am glad it is gone. I had basal cell on the back of my arm, just a reddened area which was there for years. It looked like nothing to my MD, but he biopsied it anyway. Surprise…not good news. My could be burned out. Thank you so much for sharing, esp the video.. I am also glad you mentioned how it doesn’t always look the same. yours and mine looked nothing alike. I now start each day with a layer of sunscreen all over my face, neck, back of my hands & shoulders before my early walk. Arms too if it is past 830a for my walk.
Everyone needs to be careful. I was a lifeguard & swimming instructor. You tanned. I hope all are careful.
Oh my gosh, I am so sorry you had to deal with this and am so glad you shared your story with us! A friend of mine also had skin cancer and since then, I’ve been so cautious of my skin, the products I use, and protecting it. Now I need to book a skin check with my doctor!
Tanvi Rastogi says
You openly sharing your journey will help others going through the same or reluctant to get the check-up. I wish you a healthy recovery and all the good vibes.
Thank you for sharing your story with us! You are such an amazing woman and hearing this is so heart touching!
cute & little
Sarah Lindner says
Thank you for sharing this very personal experience. I love sitting out in the sun and so I appreciate this reminder that I need to care for my skin better. Wishing you all the best on your treatment journey and recovery! xoxo, Sarah
Oof, I wish there’d been a bit of a disclaimer before scrolling through because this made me so antsy to look at! I’m so sorry you went through this. My mom dealt with skin cancer a few years ago and had it removed from her forehead, but it was a really challenging process. I hope the healing is quick and easy.
Wow, what an incredible story. I’m so truly sorry you had to go through that, no one deserves to have to deal with that pain, uncertainty, or worry the way you did, and I’m sorry to hear you had to endure the painful biopsy process and a negative diagnosis. I can relate to so much of your story, and I’m really thankful you shared this with us. I have all of the same risk factors you do, green eyes, freckles, extremely pale, never tan, burns very easily, etc. and I’ve never been to a dermatologist even once in my life. Because of you, I’m going to book an appointment to see a dermatologist for the first time. I don’t really have anything I’m currently worried about, but as a kid I had 2nd-3rd degree burns on my face and shoulders, and I just think it would be a good idea to have my skin looked at, just to be safe. Thank you for being so honest and for making me think about this issue for myself as well, I’m really thankful for you bringing this up, and being brave enough to talk about it honestly.
Girl, I’m so sorry that you keep getting knocked down. Sending you lots of love! I actually worked for a dermatologist for years so I’m quite familiar with all the different skin cancers including basal cell. Thankfully, it’s the most common and it’s great that you got it removed as quickly as you could but even then, I know that it’s no fun at all. I saw your post earlier and I’m glad that you’re spreading awareness about this as it’s really important!! Sending you lots of prayers for quick healing <3
Hillary Conheady says
I honestly don’t know enough about skin cancer so thank you for sharing! I need to do a skin screening ASAP and this was such a great reminder.
Gina Saunders says
Hi I just went threw the same thing i was told most African Americans don’t normally get it i most likely came from my great grandmother who was White but I had a biopsy an my surgery was two days ago I’m still healing an feel blessed I looked like a blackhead at first but it grew fast so I had my doctor look at it I was referred to a great Plastic surgeon I take my bandages off in two more days I’m looking for great results and also wearing sunscreen from now on I’m just happy and truly blessed
I had a similar story and it was my hair dresser who said, “..you might want to get that checked out”. Thank goodness I did as I also had to have the MOHS surgery and now I am vigilant about my skin care and wearing a hat and staying out of the sun! This is a great post, and hopefully will make more people aware and if you suspect something get it checked out.