A woman refused to look at herself in the mirror after an acne scar became cancerous and left her with a gaping hole on her nose.
Market specialist Melissa Fife, 40, noticed that an acne scar on her nose was irritating before she noticed it was getting bigger and the nearby skin was starting to shake in early 2020.
Melissa consulted a plastic surgeon who immediately recommended a dermatologist because he believed she was showing signs of skin cancer.
Within a week, Melissa, from Utah, USA, had a biopsy and received an official diagnosis of basal cell carcinoma skin cancer – the most commonly diagnosed skin. cancer in the United States.
Despite the diagnosis, Melissa was calm and she was reassured that the cancer had been found early and she knew she would be able to get treatment soon.
After the biopsy, she was scheduled for a small procedure called Mohs surgery – an operation performed under local anesthesia where the cancerous tissue is cut out.
Unfortunately, her cancer was deeper than doctors thought, and Melissa was told she should have four stages of that procedure on her nose.
Between operations, a large, open wound remained on her nose, which she had to cover with a bandage.
For the first few days after her surgery, Melissa found it too hard to face looking at her wound as she struggled to make the sudden change to her face.
Fortunately, her family was incredibly supportive, and volunteered to help her so she didn’t have to look at her injury until she was ready.
After a few days, she decided she needed to see the wound to understand what she was going through.
Her last surgery was a reconstruction of her nose done by taking a skin graft from her clavicle.
After this operation, Melissa was worried because the skin graft looked alarming and dead – but the nurse assured her that it was normal and would get better over time.
Now in the healing process, Melissa’s skin graft is starting to look more pink and even, but luckily she hasn’t suffered too much pain.
One of her nostrils is partially collapsed, but she plans to find a way to rebuild her nose in the future.
After spending most of her life outside in the sun, Melissa now has to be extra careful about sun protection. She always wore sunscreen before her diagnosis, but now she also adds extra clothing for sunscreen.
Melissa wants to encourage people to have regular appointments with dermatologists and protect themselves from the sun.
Since her operations, the way she looks at her own beauty has changed. After her operations, she struggled to adapt to the way she looked – but she doesn’t want to hide anymore.
“I’ve been working on expert marketing for about a decade, and most of the events I have to work on are outdoor,” Melissa said.
“I’m also an outdoor enthusiast – but I’ve always tried to wear a hat when possible and I’ve been wearing high SPF sunscreens every day.
“I had a small acne scar on my nose for a few years, but in early 2020, my scar started to irritate. Skin would fall apart and it would easily peel off.
“The scar was starting to get bigger and more deformed – I was embarrassed by what it looked like. I thought it was purely cosmetic and it was my fault it kept getting bigger.
“I decided to see a plastic surgeon for a consultation to find out what my chances are for a scar review.
“The surgeon had to look at it for only about 20 seconds to tell me that he thought it was skin cancer. He recommended that I go to a dermatologist for a biopsy.
“I immediately scheduled an appointment, and I got the biopsy results a few days later.
“The results were conclusive – it was basal cell carcinoma skin cancer.
“I was then scheduled for a procedure called Mohs surgery. It involves cutting the cancerous skin and examining it under a microscope to determine if all the cancer cells have been removed. If the doctor sees the cancer stretching outside the edges of the cut, he takes a larger a cut of skin.
“Every time it’s done, it’s called a stage. I had to have four stages because my cancer spread more than originally thought.
“The whole procedure took seven hours, then the doctor scheduled me for another operation with a plastic surgeon the following week.
“Between operations, I had an open wound on my nose where the skin was removed. The doctor told me to keep it covered with a bandage, and to change it every two days.
“This was very emotional for me. I didn’t want to see the open wound. I felt it would be too traumatic to see how graphically it looked – I cried several times thinking about it.
“My family members were kind enough to help me change the bandage so I wouldn’t have to look at it.
“After a few days, I decided it was time for me to stop seeing my wound. I knew I wouldn’t always have people to help me, and I would have to do difficult things on my own. I needed to see the wound in its entirety so that I could fully understand what I was going through and what I was recovering from.
“The second surgery was in the operating room – the surgeon recommended a skin graft. They took a section of skin near my clavicle area and grafted it to my nose.
“When I woke up, the procedure looked as if it had gone as planned. The surgeon sewed a closet on my nose – a thick, medicated bandage that holds pressure on the skin graft.
“After a week, the rope was gone, and it looked like a piece of dried, dead zombie skin sewn on my face. The nurse assured me that she was recovering as expected.
“Nowadays, the color of the skin graft is starting to match and turn pink. It is also very thick – it does not match the thickness of the skin on my face.
“It looks like a sticker made of skin has been fixed on my face.
“One of my nostrils has partially collapsed, and that’s been the case since surgery, so I hope there will be a way to rebuild the nostril and smooth out the skin graft.”
Now that Melissa is starting to recover from her surgeries, she is reflecting on her experience with cancer and how it has affected her.
“I once had an opera director describe how beauty doesn’t necessarily mean‘ beautiful, ’” Melissa said.
“When I had the wound open, I wanted to hide, but I realized I was hiding from myself.
“My appearance was very important to me, and I couldn’t bear to see my face like that.
“Since then, I’ve been trying not to hide. I post pictures of my nose on social media because I want people to know that they are not alone.
“I want people to see that healing takes time, and life doesn’t have to stop.
“I like to think I haven’t changed, but that would be unfair to say – I’ve changed.
“I’m happier, bolder and more shameless about how I look. Most importantly, I appreciate the opportunity to recover every day. ”