By Rebecca Drew
THIS MUM described herself as a ‘DIEHARD’ tanner and used tanning beds up to SIX TIMES A WEEK but what she thought was an innocent spot on her nose turned out to be SKIN CANCER that left her with a HOLE IN HER SNOUT.
When teacher, Rebekah Rupp (41) from Morrison, Oklahoma, USA, was in her teens and twenties, she loved the confidence that being tanned gave her and used tanning beds anywhere up to six times a week to achieve a healthy glow, despite people warning her of the dangers.
As well as this, she rarely took care of her face and just used wipes and pads to cleanse her skin. It wasn’t until five years ago when Rebekah started to work for a skin care company to earn some extra money that she discovered the importance of using an SPF.
In August 2018 Rebekah noticed that a dark spot had appeared on her cheek, so she went to her dermatologist on December 20, to get it checked out. Whilst there, the dermatologist noticed a white spot, which Rebekah had assumed was innocent, on the tip of her nose which he removed immediately and sent off for testing.
Rebekah was told that she had basal cell carcinoma skin cancer and she underwent Mohs surgery on June 10, 2019, to remove the affected layers of skin which left her with a hole in her nose which was repaired via a forehead flap, where a vein from the forehead is attached to the nose, the following day. She wore the flap for four weeks before having her final reconstructive surgery on July 9, 2019.
Since her surgery and skin cancer battle, Rebekah takes extra care of her skin, wears sunscreen every day without fail and wears a hat when she’s in the sun. She also makes sure her children are well protected and always have sunscreen in their bags.
“I had a dark spot appear on my cheek, so I made an appointment with my dermatologist to have it looked at,” said Rebekah.
“I was a diehard tanning bed tanner. In my earlier years, I tanned at least five to six times a week. I was told by others it was bad for me, but until it happened to me – I never listened.
“I loved the way tanning made me feel. It relaxed me, it made me feel pretty, and it gave me a glow that I loved.
“In high school and in college, I never took care of my face. I used face pads such as Noxema and Seabreeze, but that is it. About five years ago, I needed to find a way to make some extra money, so I googled side businesses. I found a skin care company called Rodan + Fields.
“I decided to give it a try because as a teacher in Oklahoma, any little extra money would be amazing. I ordered the kit and soon fell in love with all the skin regimens. The products have made my skin healthier feeling and looking. All the products I tried had SPF built in, so it was a huge bonus for my skin. I still continue to sell and use Rodan + Fields as of today.
“As soon as I went in for the dark spot, the dermatologist spotted a white looking mole on the tip of my nose. He asked me how long I had it, it had only been there for about two months or so, I thought it was just a pimple that wouldn’t go away.
“He acted very concerned about the way it looked, and immediately removed it to send it off for results. I was very scared. Hearing the word cancer hurts. It’s the worst feeling in the world, because in the back of your mind you are thinking death.
“Once I had the mole removed and sent off to be biopsied, I was then sent to a specialist in Oklahoma City that dealt with my procedure that needed to be done. The procedure is called the Mohs surgery, where they remove thin layers of cancer-containing skin and examine it until only cancer free tissue remains.
“After they had removed all the skin cancer from my nose, I was sent to a reconstructive surgeon for surgery to repair my hole in my nose. The surgeon did a forehead flap where they take a vein that has good blood flow from the top of the head and they attach it to the nose. I wore the flap for four weeks and I then had another surgery to remove the flap from my nose.”
Following on from her surgery, Rebekah still has some swelling but she’s sharing her experience to encourage others to use sun protection.
“Protect your skin while you have it. Don’t tan in tanning beds or expose your skin to sun exposure without using sunscreen and wearing protection on your head,” she said.
“I now use Rodan + Fields every day, twice a day. I apply sunscreen in the mornings no matter what. When I go out in the sun, I apply sunscreen all over any skin showing. I also wear a hat when out in the sun.
“My bag contains every sunscreen you can imagine from sprays to lotions. I lather my kids in sunscreen because they have a light complexion like myself. Both now carry sunscreens in their sport bags and are very consistent in putting it on.
“My first advice to everyone is wear sunscreen. If you can’t find a sunscreen, I can hook you up, but truthfully any sunscreen is better than none.
“Also, make it a habit to go to the dermatologist at least once a year. If you have any concerns about any spots on your body, go get it checked out.
“If it’s nothing, then at least you have peace of mind.”