Sun damage and skin cancer don’t discriminate. It doesn’t care what your age, sex or race is, and it doesn’t care what you do for a living. One of Bioelements most popular and knowledgeable skin care professionals, Deanna Vaughn, was diagnosed with the disease back in 2005. We asked if she could tell us her story, and she shares it below.
First things first: I had several bad sunburns in my lifetime, which all occurred as a child or teen. But I became an absolute faithful sunscreen wearer in high school since my skin is as pale as a ghost. However, skin cancer is common in my family. Five members have had Basal Cell Carcinoma, and my brother has had Basal, Squamous, and Melanoma.
In 2005, a small spot appeared on my face near my eye (see the photo above). I thought it was just some random lesion that looked familiar (sort of like an inverted oil gland). I tried to extract its contents (as a skin care professional – I am trained on how to do extractions correctly), then exfoliate it, and use a professional peel on it. But it never went away – it just slowly got bigger over time. After a few months, it looked like a small raised keloid scar.
My sister-in-law Brenda works for a dermatologist and a plastic surgeon. I went to have it looked at, and they took a biopsy. The results came back, and the diagnosis was Slerotic Basal Cell Carcinoma – the most aggressive type of basal cell carcin. I said “What?! Me?! The poster child for sunscreen use?!” It was true – and my messing with it did not help things at all. Cancer is still part of the body and if you do things to it, it can grow just like any other tissue.
Removal and Closure Surgery
In Feb. of 2006, I had it removed via MOHS surgery by dermatologist Dr. Kornfeld, and the closure was done by plastic surgeon Dr. Chiand. MOHS surgery is where they take out a small section of skin and freeze it, then shave it like deli meat and put each slice on a slide in order of their layers (top to bottom) and carefully examine each slice to see if they see any cancerous cells. They had to go in deeper a second time because my first set of slides showed cancer all the way through to the bottom layer. The second piece taken out was sliced and then they were able to finally see some slices that contained no cancerous cells. I watched Brenda make all the slides and that was really interesting. I got to see my surgery site after all the tissue was removed, before Dr. Chiand closed it.
It was shocking to me because that little lesion ended up being quite larger below the surface. You can think of cancer like when you were a kid and drew a photo of the sun and made little lines for the rays. Cancer has extensions on it sometimes and doctors have to make sure they get every single one of them.
It was an easy process – the only thing that hurt was the numbing in the beginning. However I was glad I had lots of pain meds to go home with, because it hurt really bad later that night. I was worried how my face would look after all of this and the fact that I work in the skin care industry. Every day I would wake up and look at my face and I looked like a pumpkin with a purple eye! My brother told me it was my mobster look!
For more, continue to part 2 where Deanna will tell us about her recovery, her current health status, and share the professional takeaways she gained after going through this process. If you have a question for Deanna, feel free to ask her in the comments.