I’ve been keeping a secret. And I’ve really debated whether or not to tell you about it. After all, this is a lifestyle blog where I show you the latest fashion finds, beauty products, travel destinations and sale alerts. But I decided that by being completely honest here today and telling you about my recent health scare, it might make it easier for you to identify this problem and get immediate help. My secret is…
I have skin cancer. OK, before we get into the nitty-gritty of this, I’m totally fine now. We caught it early and have completely resolved it. But I thought it was an important story to share on the blog. Especially because I hope that you will be vigilant about this and go to the doctor. It’s so important to have a good dermatologist and to regularly see them just for a skin check. Personally, I use Lori Stetler, M.D. and Jennifer Scheiderich, P.A. for all my dermatology needs at Dallas Center for Dermatology and Aesthetics. You’ve read blog posts here about Kybella, Thermage, Cool Sculpting, Microblading and Laser Treatments. I’ve been seeing them for over 20 years for all my dermatology needs and my entire family uses this practice. Additionally, I see Lynley McAnalley, M.D. at Highland Park Aesthetic Medicine for all my injectable aesthetic needs. You might remember my blog posts about the InstaLift, Botox and Voluma and blog posts about ZO Skin Health products here and here. Bottom line, I have a lot of great people who see me often and are looking at my skin!
You might wonder how this happened. I had a dry, flaky patch about the size of a dime at the top of my forehead. I kept telling myself it was nothing and probably just a reaction to all the beauty and skincare products I try for the blog. After all, when you change products as often as I do, it does cause irritation. It was not a mole nor was it discolored. It was just a regular spot on my forehead that kept peeling. Over and over again. But it did nothing else. Just kind of annoying and wouldn’t go away. I had one of the kids in to see Jennifer Scheiderich, P.A. for a regular skin check and mentioned that I had this weird spot on my forehead. She said it didn’t look like anything suspicious but just to be safe, we made a separate appointment for me and got it biopsied. I really thought I was just wasting everyone’s time and that she would prescribe me a topical ointment that would clear it up in a few days. And then the phone call came…
It was basal cell carcinoma. I was numb for a second and thought you have got to be kidding me. ME? The one who takes such good care of my skin? Now let me say this. If you must have a cancer, this is the one you want to have. Melanoma is much more aggressive and spreads quickly. Basal cell carcinoma is the most common kind of skin cancer. It’s easily treatable but you must take action and treat it. That is one of the most important things I want to drive home by writing this post. ACT ON IT! That annoying, flaky spot had been there for months and I didn’t do anything about it. In fact, I bet you never saw it. No one did. You can look back through all my blog posts and I bet you won’t catch it. That’s my point. I knew it was there and should have done something immediately!
They gave me two treatment options. Try a topical to see if it would shrink and clear up or have it cut out at with Moh’s surgery. I tried the topical for several weeks and after much thinking, I decided to have it taken out with Sarah Weitzul, M.D. FAAD at Surgical Dermatology Associates Dallas, P.A. I’m the kind of person that just wants the problem resolved and Moh’s surgery has a 95-99% cure rate. Typical me, I had an 8:15 AM appointment with Dr. Weitzul and thought I would be home by 11:00 AM. WRONG! I went through 3 rounds of excision before she got clear margins and knew that she had all the cancer. In case you are wondering, they cut the suspected area and use their onsite lab to check the cells. You will continue to the next round until they know that they have all the cancer cells. During the process we decided to have a plastic surgeon close the wound. After all, it’s my face we’re talking about. Dr. Weitzul called and Patrick H. Pownell, M.D. was able to fit me into his schedule that afternoon. Pete picked me up and took me to the surgery center for Dr. Pownell to close the wound. Needless to say, what I thought would be some quick stitches turned into surgery with them putting me under using general anesthesia. I had numerous internal stitches and 17 external sutures. I got home at 5:00 PM. That day didn’t go the way I thought it would. Isn’t that what happens when you think you have control of everything and suddenly realize you are in control of nothing?
I am showing you some of the pictures from that day in hopes of helping others identify skin cancer. My sutures are out now and I am in the process of treating the scar. Eventually, it will fade into my frown line and all will be forgotten. But if I ever see anything like this again, you better believe that I will immediately act on it and call my dermatologist. Chances are, I’ll have to deal with it again because of the tanning decisions I made in the 80’s. If you read this blog post then you know that I had a membership at a tanning salon and often sunbathed using baby oil. Oh, and I had one of those silver reflector blankets that promised to tan me all the way around. Much like a rotisserie chicken. Get the picture? Can you say dumb a$$?
Since this is such an important topic, I asked Dr. Lori Stetler to give me the top warning signs of basal cell carcinoma. They are:
1) A spot that continuously scabs and never seems to heal
2) A spot that bleeds easily
3) Usually translucent or pink but can have pigment
4) Most common on sun exposed areas, but can occur anywhere there is skin
5) It’s the most common form of skin cancer. It can grow large and be destructive if not treated, but do not usually spread (like melanomas).
So if you see me out and about with a steri-strip on my forehead, you know what happened. And you better believe that I slather on 50 SPF sunscreen or higher just to walk the dogs. I’m linking you to my favorite sunscreen products below. Also, there are some great clothing brands that make their clothes with sun protection in them. Brands like Solumbra, Coolibar and Cabana Life offer clothes with UPF 50. Brilliant!
Thank you for letting me share my story. If just one person goes to the dermatologist for a skin check, I will have done my job. Please SHARE today’s blog post and help spread the word about getting your skin checked. It’s important!
xoxo – Tanya
P.S. Be sure to page all the way to the bottom of this post. A reader sent me an e-mail with her personal story.
Tanya’s tale of skin cancer
This picture was taken at the beginning of July. I bet you don’t see anything.
The red spot at the top of my forehead is the spot we are talking about. That is it. Pardon the no makeup look.
Although it is red here, it was continuously flaking and peeling. It was mostly annoying and would never go away. UGH!
Waiting between excision rounds at Surgical Dermatology Associates Dallas, P.A. Dr. Weitzul did an amazing job and her staff is great. My forehead was numb and I never felt a thing. In fact, I was watching TV.
After 3 rounds of excision, we decided it was best to have a plastic surgeon close the wound. Per usual, I’m trying to make a fashion statement out of my hospital gown right before surgery. Dr. Patrick H. Pownell did a great job.
The day after the procedures. 17 sutures. WOW! Who knew that such a little spot could turn into this?
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Photo: Vanessa Christina
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A note from one of my subscribers:
After reading about your experience with the Mohs surgery, I expected the stubborn spot above my upper lip was cancerous and I needed to have it checked. Well, time went by and it didn’t change but it wasn’t going away either and I just kept putting it off (my bad). Finally at the first of the year I had it biopsied by Dr. Feetham at Dr. Stetler’s office and it was squamous cell carcinoma. Strangely, even though it seemed rather obvious that’s what it was going to be, I was still surprised and sort of in denial. I had a consult with Dr Perone ,same office you went to, and got scheduled for Mohs . I do craft shows so I was trying to work the surgery around the ones I had scheduled ,as this thing on my face was gonna stand out after surgery . Well, before the surgery date, COVID19 came and I finally just yesterday got to have my surgery. I also had the stitches with Dr. Pownell.
So, all that to say I appreciate you for writing about your experience. I read the post 3 or 4 times and it gave me courage to go on with the procedure and to calm down a bit about it. I am a big nervous Nellie about any thing that goes wrong in my body and will research the heck out of whatever is going on. It really helped me mentally and emotionally to know you had been through it and survived just fine. I always like to know what to expect before something like that so when I went In, because of you, I felt mentally prepared.
Dr. Pownell was awesome and I’m confident my scar will be just fine. I am one of those girls who doesn’t want to even go out for a walk without my lip stick, so the thought of a line of stitches, (16 total inside and out) then a scar on my face made me quite anxious.
But I’m OK now and just not worried about it.
I have followed your blog for a long time and have stayed with it because you keep it all real and relatable. So thank you for sharing a bit of yourself that you could have chosen not to. I wanted you to know you made a difference! And isn’t that what we all hope to do every day!