By Tanita Matthews
THIS WOMAN’S hand BIRTHMARK turned CANCEROUS leaving doctors no choice but to operate – resulting in her needing TWO skin grafts to cover the HORRIFIC SCAR.
Technical saleswoman, Kristina Findalen (37), from Copenhagen, Denmark, was on holiday with her children and father in Italy in 2018, when she noticed some changes to her birthmark.
What had always been an innocuous mark on her right palm suddenly became a nuisance as it began to grow in size, itch and lose its colour.
Returning home in August 2018, Kristina visited her doctor who referred her to a dermatologist for further investigation. It was at this appointment in November 2018 that Kristina first became worried that the anomaly in her birthmark could be something sinister.
“Summer 2018 I noticed it (her birthmark) had changed colour and gotten bigger and started to itch,” Kristina said.
“It was just a little brown dot and then around the summer time we were in Italy for three weeks and it’s because my dad has some spots on his back and I said to him, ‘I would go to the doctor with these ones’ and he didn’t want to.
“I looked at my hand and it was starting to itch also and then it lost its colour and it got twice the size so I thought I better get it checked out, I can’t say go to the doctor to my dad and not do it myself.
“As soon as I could I went to the doctors and she sent me to a specialist dermatologist. There was about three months of waiting and when I got to her she was like, ‘I will send you to the cancer unit immediately’.
“Two days after I was at the dermatologists I had to go to the hospital. They took the biopsy and then ran tests and I got an answer ten days later- I was going to the hospital to have the stitches taken out so I got the results then.”
Unfortunately for Kristina, the results of the biopsy had shown that she had developed stage one melanoma- a common type of skin cancer, in her birthmark. Fortunately, the disease had been caught in the early stages and could be treated.
Kristina’s life had already been turned upside down 18 months previously when she and her husband of 17 years split. Five months later he committed suicide, devastating her and their two children.
The single-mother-of-two was advised that surgery to remove the cancer would be the most successful route. She was told that a skin graft would cover the deep wound on her hand, but the surgery only resulted in more problems.
“Normally when you hear ‘cancer’ you associate it with death. I was in shock and thought it was nothing, it was just a birthmark, and I didn’t see that it could be cancer really,” said Kristina.
“They (doctors) said that they had to remove it surgically, that was the best outcome with melanoma.
“I went into survival mode. My kids only have me after their dad died in May 2017, so I refused to think that I wouldn’t beat this sickness.
“We had just kind of got back to normal, well as normal as possible, and then I got this diagnosis and it came crashing down all over again.”
“On December 3, I had my first surgery where they removed my cancer and skin graft from my thigh. They unfortunately damaged a nerve to my little finger- it is a risk with the surgery because in the hand you have no fat layer, it’s all muscle and bone and nerves its very compact, so it is a risk.”
Luckily, Kristina has been given the all-clear from her cancer. In May 2019 she needed a second operation to replace her damaged nerve with a donor nerve, followed by a second skin graft.
Despite this, Kristina still has ongoing issues with the damage caused by the surgery, but she hopes that sharing her story will help others who are going through a similar diagnosis.
“I’ve never heard of anyone having it in the hand, I was looking up ‘what would be the outcome?’ And ‘what will it look like?’ And I couldn’t find any references online because there weren’t any, so I think the more people share, the more enlightened other people can get,” said Kristina.
“Cancer is not something we can prevent but we can be more aware and hopefully spot it in an early stage.”