Woman reveals how 'deformed' acne scar turned out to be SKIN CANCER

Woman reveals how ‘deformed’ acne scar turned out to be SKIN CANCER that left her with a huge gaping wound on her nose and made her so self-conscious she couldn’t look at herself

  • Melissa Fife, 40, from Salt Lake City, Utah, began noticing that an acne scar on her nose was getting irritated and ‘deformed’ at the start of 2020 
  • She was embarrassed by its appearance so she went to see a plastic surgeon – however he immediately recommended that she get a biopsy 
  • He was concerned that the cosmetic symptoms she was so worried about – including its changing shape and size – were signs of skin cancer 
  • Melissa’s biopsy results revealed that she was suffering from basal cell carcinoma – the most commonly diagnosed skin cancer in the US 
  • She underwent a procedure known as Mohs surgery in which the cancerous tissue is cut away, however her cancer was deeper than expected 
  • The marketing specialist therefore had to undergo the procedure four times, each one leaving her with a bigger wound than the last 
  • She couldn’t stand to look at her face in the mirror because she worried it would be too ‘traumatizing’ to see how much her appearance had changed 
  • Melissa has since undergone a skin graft which is slowly healing – and she is now sharing her story to raise awareness about skin cancer and its dangers  

A woman has revealed how an old acne scar on her nose turned into skin cancer that left her with a gaping hole in her face and made her feel so self-conscious, she couldn’t stand to look at herself in the mirror. 

Marketing specialist Melissa Fife, 40, from Salt Lake City, Utah, first noticed an old scar on her nose was becoming irritated at the start of 2020, admitting that she was initially embarrassed about its appearance.     

During the first few months of the year, the scar had begun to grow larger, and the skin around it began to flake and become raised. 

Eager to resolve the issue as soon as possible, Melissa consulted with a plastic surgeon, hoping that he would be able to reduce its appearance on her nose. Much to her surprise however, he immediately recommended that she see a dermatologist, explaining that she was showing potential signs of skin cancer.

Within a week, Melissa had had a biopsy and received an official diagnosis of basal cell carcinoma skin cancer – the most commonly diagnosed skin cancer in the US. 

Changes: A marketing specialist from Salt Lake City, Utah, has revealed how an irritated acne scar on her nose turned out to be skin cancer – after visiting a plastic surgeon to get it fixed

Shock: Melissa Fife, 40, was embarrassed by the appearance of her scar when it got bigger and irritated at the start of last year – however a plastic surgeon warned it could be skin cancer

Pain: A biopsy revealed that Melissa had basal cell carcinoma skin cancer – and she had to undergo surgery to cut the cancerous tissue from her nose, which left her with a huge wound

‘I’ve been working in experiential marketing for around a decade, and the majority of events I am required to work are outdoors,’ said Melissa. ‘I’m also an outdoor enthusiast – but I’ve always tried to wear a hat when possible and I wore 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 get irritated. Skin would flake off and it would scab easily. 

‘The scar started to get larger and more deformed – I was embarrassed about how it looked. I thought it was purely cosmetic and that it was my fault that it kept getting bigger. 

Treatment: Melissa’s cancer turned out to go deeper than doctors had though, so she had to undergo four surgeries to remove the cancerous tissue, with her wound becoming bigger and bigger each time 

‘I decided to see a plastic surgeon for a consultation to find out what my options were for scar revision. 

‘The surgeon only had to look at it for about 20 seconds to tell me that he thought it was skin cancer. He recommended that I go to a dermatologist to get a biopsy. 

‘I immediately scheduled an appointment, and I received the biopsy results a few days later. 

‘The results were conclusive – it was basal cell carcinoma skin cancer.’

Despite the diagnosis, Melissa was calm. 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 done under local anesthetic, where the cancerous tissue is cut out. 

Unfortunately, her cancer was deeper than doctors thought, and Melissa was told she would need to have four stages of this procedure on her nose. Between surgeries, a large, open wound remained on her nose, which she had to cover with a bandage. 

‘I was scheduled for a procedure called Mohs surgery,’ she recalled. ‘It entails cutting the cancerous skin out and examining it under a microscope to determine if all of the cancerous cells have been removed. If the doctor sees the cancer extending outside the borders of the cut, he takes a larger cut of skin. 

‘Each time this is done, it’s called a stage. I had to have four stages because my cancer extended further than originally thought. 

‘The entire procedure lasted seven hours, then the doctor scheduled me for another surgery with a plastic surgeon the following week.’  

For the first few days following her surgery, Melissa found it too difficult to face looking at her wound, as she struggled to deal with the sudden change to her face. Luckily, her family were incredibly supportive, and volunteered to help her so she didn’t have to look at her wound until she was ready. 

After some days had passed, she decided that she needed to see the wound to understand what she had been through. Her last surgery was a reconstruction of her nose done by taking a skin graft from her collarbone.  

America’s most common skin cancer: What is basal cell carcinoma – and what are the warning signs?

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common form of skin cancer – and the most frequently occurring form of all cancers, according to The Skin Cancer Foundation. 

There are an estimated 3.6 million cases diagnosed in the US each year – however death from BCC is very rare. Less than 2,000 people in the US are believed to die from the illness in a single year. 

However, as with all cancers, BCC is easier to treat when it is caught early – which means it is incredibly important to be aware of the main symptoms, which are: 

  • An open sore that doesn’t heal
  • A red or irritated patch of skin 
  • A small pink growth 
  • A scar-like are that appears white, yellow, or waxy 
  • A shiny bump or nodule that appears clear, pink, red, or white  

There are a number of treatment options available for BCC, however the most common include electrosurgery – in which a doctor scrapes off the cancerous tissue with a sharp, ring-shaped tool, before using heat to destroy the remaining cancer cells – and Mohs surgery – which involves a surgeon cutting out the cancerous tissue.

‘Between surgeries, I had an open wound on my nose where the skin had been removed,’ she said. ‘The doctor told me to keep it covered with a bandage, and change it every couple of days. 

‘This was very emotional for me. I didn’t want to see the open wound. I felt that it would be too traumatic to see how graphic 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 several days, I decided it was time for me to stop avoiding seeing my wound. I knew that I wouldn’t always have people around to help me, and I was going to have to do hard things on my own. I needed to see the wound in all its mess so that I could fully understand what I’ve been through and what I’m healing from.’

Following this operation, Melissa grew concerned, as 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 been in too much pain.  

‘The second surgery was in the operating room – the surgeon recommended a skin graft. They took a section of skin near my collarbone area and grafted it to my nose,’ Melissa explained.

‘When I awoke, the procedure looked as though it went as planned. The surgeon had sutured a bolster on my nose – a thick, medicated bandage that keeps pressure on the skin graft. 

‘After a week, the bolster removed, and it looked like there was a piece of dried-up, dead zombie skin sewn on my face. The nurse assured me it was healing as expected.’

One of her nostrils is partially collapsed, but she plans to find a way to reconstruct her nose in future. After spending most of her life outside in the sun, Melissa now has to be extra-diligent about sun protection. 

She always wore sunscreen before her diagnosis, but now she adds extra clothing for sun protection too. Melissa wants to encourage people to have regular appointments with dermatologists and to protect themselves from the sun. 

Since her surgeries, the way she views her own beauty has changed. After her operations, she struggled to adjust to the way she looked – but she doesn’t want to hide any more.

Upset: Melissa was horrified when she saw her skin graft for the first time, saying that she thought it looked like ‘dead zombie skin’  

Proud: However a nurse assured her that it was healing properly, and that she simply had to wait for the swelling and redness to go away 

Progress: Melissa’s graft looks much less swollen and red that it did after the procedure was done – and she is now sharing her story to raise awareness about skin cancer 

‘Currently, the color of the skin graft is starting to even out and become pink. It’s also very thick – it doesn’t match the thickness of the skin on my face,’ she said.

‘It looks as though there’s a sticker made out of skin that was stuck on my face.

‘One of my nostrils is partially collapsed, and has been that way since surgery, so I’m hoping that there will be a way to reconstruct the nostril and smooth out the skin graft.’ 

Now that Melissa is beginning to recover from her surgeries, she has been 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 “pretty”,’ Melissa said. 

‘When I had the open wound, I wanted to hide, but I realized I was hiding from myself. 

‘My appearance had been very important to me, and I couldn’t bear to see my face that way. 

‘Since then, I’ve tried to make an effort to not hide. I post pictures of my nose on social media, because I want people to know they aren’t alone. 

‘I want people to see that healing takes time, and life doesn’t have to stop. 

‘I like to think that I haven’t changed, but that would be unfair to say – I have changed. 

‘I’m happier, bolder, and unashamed of how I look. Most importantly, I’m grateful every day for the chance to heal.’

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