On the blog this week, I’ve invited my amazing sister, Brooke Coudret, that I’m honored to work with at Racquel Aesthetics, share her recent story with Basal Cell Skin Cancer in honor of Skin Cancer Awareness Month! I hope her story urges you to wear your SPF and schedule your yearly skin checks with your dermatology provider. As a heads up, there are some graphic, real life photos included in this blog!
Take it away Brooke!
I think it’s basal cell carcinoma: words no one, especially a 2-weeks-postpartum mother, wants to hear. What appeared to be a little raised bump that I thought would simply be frozen off in 2 minutes was actually a confirmed basal cell cancer.
I was in the middle of my pregnancy with Bauer when I noticed a weird, pink, and textured bump on my hairline right where I’ve parted my hair for years. At first, I didn’t think anything of it and figured it would just eventually disappear. I brushed it off as some random pregnancy acne flare or dry spot that would go away on its own. After about 2 months, nothing had changed. I started paying closer attention to it and noticed that the spot was kind of flaky, a little itchy, and the border did look unusual. I also noticed that it was raised and there was no hair growing on it.
In search of some peace of mind, I texted a picture of the spot to one of my besties whose husband is a brilliant dermatologist in Illinois. He told me that it certainly warranted a visit to a local dermatologist, but the visit could wait until the end of my pregnancy. Fast forward to 2 weeks into my maternity leave, my friend gave me a referral to Dr. Briscoe at Meramec Dermatology in Sunset Hills, MO. A little nervous but still fairly confident it was nothing, I walked into the office with my 2-week-old. Dr. Briscoe examined my head, and literally within 2 seconds, he explained that since the spot was vascular, he suspected basal cell carcinoma. He numbed my head, took a biopsy, and sent it off to the lab.
Biopsy results are positive. I was truly kind of numb once I saw those results pop through. I am 31. I have two kids under 2. I don’t have time for this. Dr. Briscoe’s office contacted me pretty quickly afterwards and scheduled my procedure, which is called a “Mohs.” Mohs surgery is a fairly common procedure used to treat skin cancer and involves cutting away layers of skin. As each layer is cut away, it is looked at closely for signs of cancer. This is called staging. Each “stage” takes approximately 45 minutes. I had two “stages,” or two layers removed.
The goal of the procedure is to remove all of the skin cancer without taking the healthy skin around it. Mohs surgery allows the surgeon to be sure that all the cancer is gone, making it more likely that the cancer is cured and reducing the need for further treatments or additional surgery.
The procedure itself was super easy on my end. I laid there awake with my head completely numb from lidocaine, so I felt absolutely nothing as the doctor cut and cauterized the spot both times. Going into the procedure, I guess I was unprepared and did not expect to be there all morning, so I was emotionally exhausted by the time I was finally deemed clear and good to go. I had about 20 stitches running from my forehead to about 2 inches into my hair.
When I was discharged, I had to wear a pressure dressing for 2 days. After that, I had to coat my head in vaseline for 2 weeks until I got my stitches out. I wasn’t allowed to bend over, lift my kids, or do basically anything that would cause too much pressure to ensure that I didn’t get a hematoma or other complication.
Two weeks later, the stitches are out & I’m feeling good. The vaseline and healing of the incision was super itchy, so I couldn’t wait to get my hair officially clean and goop-free. They normally recommend Silicone Scar Sheets to help aid in healing the scar, but since mine was in my hair they said it would come right off. They also recommended that I start massaging the area to break up scar tissue, continue with my botox to help freeze the muscles around the incision and prevent the incision from widening and, lastly, begin CO2 laser treatment 2 months post-Mohs to smooth the scar out and increase collagen production.
Fast forward to now, and my incision looks incredible! I am so shocked at how nicely it’s healed, and I have found ways to cover up the scar. My nerves are starting to come back where she cut, and little hairs are starting to grow over some of the areas. I’m super pleased with the end result thus far.
All in all, I cannot stress enough how important SPF is year-round. It’s not just meant for sunny days or days you’re out on the boat. SPF application is SO important EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. I recommend applying SPF once a day unless you’re directly in the sun, in which case I recommend reapplying every 2 hours and wearing sunglasses, hats, and doing whatever you can to shield your face directly from the sun. I absolutely love the tint our RFA Prime + Protect 40 SPF gives. It truly works on all skin types and gives you that glow without makeup on the weekends. Take it from me – you don’t want to go through this. It’s time-consuming, costly, and physically and emotionally draining. I’m so lucky I have the most supportive husband who, throughout all of this, always kept me in the right direction. I wish so badly I could go back in time to ditch the tanning beds and be way more diligent with SPF application!
I hide the scar really well. You would never know I had the MOHS. Back at the derm for a head to toe! I have go to every 6 months now.
My motto from here on out: “One pump of SPF a day keeps the basal cell skin cancer away!”