By Rebecca Drew
THIS WOMAN thought she was ‘TOO YOUNG’ for skin cancer and was shocked to receive a diagnosis that meant she had to undergo FIVE SURGERIES to RECONSTRUCT her face.
In 2010 self-employed independent distributor, Pamela Rawn (48) from Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA, noticed a spot on the side of her head that kept bleeding on and off but she didn’t think it was skin cancer as she assumed that she was too young.
It wasn’t until her sister had a skin cancer scare of her own that came back negative, that Pamela decided to visit a dermatologist to get her own skin checked out that May. Her dermatologist picked out three spots for biopsy; one on the side of her head and two more which Pamela had never suspected on her nose and under her right eye.
A week later, Pamela, who is a mum-of-two, was diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma (BCC), a type of non-melanoma skin cancer, at all three sites. The spot on the side of her head was removed and stitched up and the spot under her eye was so small most of it was removed at the biopsy stage and was treated with a topical cream.
But the spot on the side of Pamela’s nose was more difficult to remove and she underwent Mohs surgery on June 10, 2010, to remove the affected layers of skin which left her with a hole in the side of her nose and no cartilage which was repaired via a forehead flap, where a vein from the forehead is attached to the nose, and cartilage from behind her ear, six days later.
She wore the flap for four weeks before having it removed and on September 2, 2010, she had a third surgery to shape her nostril followed by another shaping surgery exactly three months later and a final surgery on January 20, 2011 to remove a bump that had appeared on the incision area.
Pamela has never been a sun worshipper and never sunbathed but growing up in the eighties, she believed tanning beds were safe and used them only a handful of times before school proms but she was sporty and thinks that burning her face whilst coaching softball as a teenager may have contributed to her developing skin cancer. Pamela regularly visits the dermatologist and hasn’t had any subsequent skin cancer scares.
“I spent my childhood and much of my young adult years being a fast food and soda junkie, not caring or realising that what I was putting into and on my body was more than likely harming me,” said Pamela.
“Most of my first forty or more years were spent being a toxic mess without even knowing it. I was never a tanning bed addict by any stretch, but I grew up in the eighties and they were still thought of as safe back then, and even into the nineties. I live in a cold climate with long winters so we would use tanning beds before prom in high school. That’s it.
“I was never one to simply lay in the sun for long but I was a little league softball coach all through high school that required me to be in the sun all day, all summer. I’ve always tanned pretty well and rarely burned except my nose. My nose would get so burnt in the summers that even the old, traditional zinc wouldn’t allow my blistered nose to heal. The only thing that would heal my burnt, blistered nose was the end of summer and getting out of the sun.
“My dermatologist was pretty sure it was skin cancer as soon as he looked at me at that first skin check-up in May 2010. I was definitely shocked to hear the diagnosis. Honestly, I felt that I was ‘too young’. My heart sank into my stomach with nerves about the removal procedures and lasting effects of the scars.
“Even though basal cell won’t kill you, as it doesn’t go systemic like some other skin cancers can, it can definitely scar you for life. The sooner you get it checked and removed, the better off you’ll be.
“As you can see in my progress photos, I lost a patch of hair along my hairline where the pedicle started. The stretching of my skin when it was stitching up caused damage to those hair follicles and I still have a bald spot there.
“I have a rather large scar on my forehead that is visible in most photographs. My nose is slightly uneven but it’s hard to see actual scarring there. The ear that the cartilage was removed from has some mild loss of structure but you’d never notice it if you didn’t know.”
Good skincare wasn’t one of Pamela’s priorities before her skin cancer diagnosis but since she takes great care of her skin.
She now takes a great interest in what chemicals are in her beauty products, opting for natural ones, and sees herself as an advocate for skin cancer awareness as well as wellness.
“Immediately after my reconstruction surgeries, I followed the dermatologist’s orders to slather high SPF sunscreen, the chemical sunscreen variety, all over and basically hide from the sun. I was paranoid about the sun,” said Pamela.
“Now that I’ve learned more about the products I use, I feel confident when I use my toxin-free mineral sunscreen, there’s a huge health advantage when using that versus the chemical sunscreens on the market and it works much more effectively for me than traditional varieties, if I’ll be in the sun for extended periods. I’m also fond of large hats when in the sun.
“However, we love to ride motorcycles and hike and I refuse to quit living life on my terms because of fear. I’m cautious and aware but I’m no longer paranoid about the sun because I’ve learned so much since then. I only use the highest quality essential oils and toxin-free skin care products on my face now.
“Skin cancer is part of my life’s journey. I wish I could say that it’s what woke me up to the power we hold in regards to our own health. It definitely changed my outlook and helped me learn but it was several years after the surgeries were done before I really started learning and changing my outlook.
“I absolutely am an advocate for skin cancer awareness, however, it’s so much more than that. I view myself as a natural wellness advocate. I truly believe that health and healing starts on the inside and works its way to the outside.
“I’m proud to tell people I’m forty-eight because people rarely believe I’m telling the truth. I say, happiness looks good on me and frankincense helps. There are many modalities that I recommend to help you get out of a toxic mindset and heal a toxic-burdened body, and for me, those two subjects go hand in hand. You’ve got to clear the toxins from your lifestyle and stop living with a toxic mind.”
Finally, Pamela shared her words of advice to others.
“Don’t wait to get checked. Two out of my three biopsies were on spots that I never even suspected as potential problems. Only a trained dermatologist really knows what to look for,” she said.
“If you have positive test results, don’t be afraid to go through hell and back to get it fixed with potential for the best possible result. My scarring would have been much worse had I chosen the easier surgical route.
“After that, do your research about products and a toxin-free lifestyle. You and only you are in control of what goes on and in your body and it all matters.
“I want people to know there’s hope. Hope if you’ve been diagnosed with skin cancer and hope to turn your health around for the future. You have more power than you may realise.”
For more information see www.instagram.com/pamelarawn_real