By Alyce Collins
THIS WOMAN spent years perfecting her TAN until a lump formed on her lip which was a type of SKIN CANCER, but the simple removal procedure didn’t go to plan and left her with a DEFORMED LIP, and her first question afterwards was whether she looked like KYLIE JENNER.
Estate agent and skin cancer advocate Kory Feltz (40) from Huntington Beach, California, USA, loved tanning in the sun from the age of 13, after being teased for being pale. Having a tan made Kory feel better about herself, which led to her using sunbeds three times a week and burning her skin to create a base tan. Despite this, Kory rarely applied sun lotion.
At the age of 27, Kory developed a lump the size of a golf ball on her calf, so her doctor removed it and upon testing it was found to be a squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), a common form of skin cancer caused by changes in the DNA cells, such as a burn, which can grow rapidly if untreated. From then on, Kory attended mandatory skin checks every six months.
By October 2015, Kory noticed a small lump on her lip, which she first assumed was a spot. However, no white head appeared and despite trying, no liquid could be extracted. Over the next few days, the lump formed white tissue on the top, so Kory knew that it was another squamous, but she wasn’t seen by her doctor for another week, so it continued to grow.
The affected skin on Kory’s lip was biopsied and came back positive for SCC. Kory was booked in with a plastic surgeon to have the squamous lump frozen and removed, but the procedure proved harder than intended as there was still cancer in the body after the removal.
What should have taken under an hour ended up taking over five hours because more tissue needed to be removed, resulting in scarring and a misshapen lip. When she woke up from surgery, Kory’s first question was whether she now looked like Kylie Jenner.
Kory’s since had two corrective surgeries since whereby the bottom of her nose was cut and moved closer to its natural position, and the corner of her lip was cut to create mobility for her upper lip, providing more ability to eat and talk.
“I was an avid tanner from 13 as I tanned in the sun and used tanning beds,” said Kory.
“I was teased for having pale skin, but I watched my older sisters lie in the sun. Also, being tanned made me feel better about myself.
“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 by simply applying sun lotion and keeping away from sunbeds.
“I rarely ever used sun lotion. I can only remember wearing it a few times and that was only because my mum made me.
“My first squamous was on my calf when I was 27, it was the size of a golf ball and it just appeared out of nowhere one day. I started my regular skin checks every six months and since then at almost every visit I’ve had a pre-cancer frozen off.
“Because of my history with squamous cells, I was able to identify the early stages of the worst squamous I have had yet. It surfaced on my lip as a tiny pink bump that looked like a spot but didn’t have a white head. I picked at it to see if I could extract any fluid and couldn’t.
“A few days later, a tiny cauliflower-like tissue appeared on top of it. I knew it was a squamous. I called my dermatologist but couldn’t get an appointment for over a month. As a week passed, it grew considerably so I walked into the dermatology office and showed them the lump and said I needed to be seen right away.
“I had a biopsy done and it came back a week later that it was a squamous. I was transferred to a plastic surgeon and saw him two weeks later, by which point it was the size of a cashew.
“I went for a planned frozen section, which was only supposed to take 45 minutes, but I woke up five and a half hours later after five frozen sections and half my lip was gone.
“I knew it was bad when I noticed little mobility in my mouth while trying to ask the nurse if I looked like Kylie Jenner. Her facial expression to that question led me to the conclusion that it wasn’t good.”
Since her corrective surgeries, Kory was also given a chemotherapy cream to kill off any SCC cancers. Kory had a painful reaction as the cream dried her skin out considerably, but its use in reducing the cancer cells was successful.
Kory wants others to take skin cancer more seriously after learning how easily this could have been avoided if she protected her skin when she was younger. Kory’s face will never look how it did prior to surgery, and she now laments not making the most of her features before.
“The reason for multiple frozen sections was because after the first dissection of tissue was tested, it came back that the cancer was still left in the body and needed to be dissected again in specific areas. This happened five times,” said Kory.
“This is to avoid taking too much tissue from the body but also to have one hundred per cent clearance that the cancer is completely gone by clearing the margins of the dissected tissue.
“I’ve had two surgeries to help correct the deformity on my face. The first one cut my nose off and shifted it to the appropriate area. Then they cut my lip in the corner to give me more ability to eat and talk. The second surgery was to cut the labial frenum completely to allow mobility with my upper lip.
“My dermatologists suggested I use chemotherapy cream because it can kill the SCC cancers all at once. I was getting biopsies every three months and we needed a way to clear it out as much as possible. I had a painful but successful reaction to the cream. I had more cancers than I even expected, which allowed the cream to work on each spot.
“My features will never return to normal unfortunately. I have a huge scar, an oddly shaped lip, I dribble, have speech issues and I have nightmares of being 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 will always miss wearing red lipstick and I’ll always regret not kissing my husband more.
“Skin cancer needs to be taken seriously. I want everyone to know that SCC can be deadly so don’t avoid the doctor. My goal is to have skin checks be included with our annual checks like breast, colon, pap, teeth, eyes and so on.”
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