Michelle Dewberry’s ‘heartbreaking’ skin cancer – ‘I thought I was going to die’

Having been left with “a gaping hole in the side [of her] nose” Dewberry refuses to go anywhere in the sun without sunscreen. His realization comes after being treated for basal cell carcinoma – the most common form of skin cancer – after the star consulted a doctor for a lump on her nose. Reassured it was a harmless pimple, it wasn’t until Dewberry was advised by a plastic surgeon to push for a third biopsy after being twice dismissed from her GP and the walk-in clinic you from the local NHS. Shortly after a third biopsy, she was admitted for emergency surgery, leaving her with a centimeter-deep crater on the left side of her nose.

“Having grown up in a working-class family in Hull, holidays abroad were beyond us. The only sun I encountered as a child was in England, and I never wore sunscreen,” Dewberry wrote in 2014 shortly after the ordeal.

“My encounter with cancer didn’t start with a mole – as most people imagine – but with an innocent-looking pimple. I first noticed it on the right side of my nose in the spring of 2013. I haven’t had pimples since I was a teenager.

“Irritated, I blamed my moisturizer and swapped for another brand. As it still wasn’t clearing up, I decided my diet was to blame and tried to improve it. The pimple disappeared for a few weeks, then it came back. In desperation, I invested in an expensive spot cream.

“But he still came and went. Sometimes it was raised, sometimes it was just a red mark. I now know that this instability is a classic sign of cancer.

READ MORE: The sign of skin cancer to spot “under the armpit” before the disease becomes incurable

Dewberry went on to explain the detrimental effect her two misdiagnoses had on her condition, she said: ‘I had no idea the cancer was creeping its way into my skin. The longer he stayed, the more damage he did.

“I was lulled into such a false sense of security that the cancer would probably still be growing today if I hadn’t run into a dermatologist at a Christmas party last December.”

Having learned that it was cancer, Dewberry’s world instantly fell apart as his mind began to panic. “When I heard the ‘C’ word, I fell apart,” she shared.

“I immediately thought of death and then the loss of my hair. I felt like my life was over. It was really painful, I thought I was going to die.

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Unhappy with her appearance, but relieved that the cancer had been removed, Dewberry was able to have reconstructive surgery to pull the skin from her cheek to cover the hole. The scar that remained has now healed, but the memories of her battle with cancer painfully remain.

“My attitude towards the sun has completely changed. I slather on factor 50 every morning – I go to 30 in the winter,” she said.

“I persuaded my friends to do the same – looking at my face they weren’t very convincing. But I’m horrified to see young women rushing into the sun at the first opportunity. I’ve been so close to destroy my appearance forever – and all because I wanted to tan.

The Skin Cancer Foundation explains that basal cell carcinoma (BCC) most often occurs due to DNA damage resulting from exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun or artificial tanning. The condition affects the outermost layer of the skin (epidermis) and leads to uncontrolled growth.

Often looking like open sores, BCCs can also look like red patches, pink growths, shiny bumps, scars, or growths with slightly raised rolled edges and/or central indentation. Sometimes BCCs can ooze, crust, itch, or bleed. The lesions usually occur in areas of the body exposed to the sun such as the face, shoulders or back.

Due to the potential seriousness of BCC, individuals should be made aware of the warning signs to look out for. Generally, they should be on the lookout for new, changing, or unusual skin growths.

Specifically, two or more of these warning signs and symptoms are apparent in a BCC tumor:

  • An open sore that does not heal and may bleed, ooze, or scab over. The sore may linger for weeks or seem to heal and then come back.
  • A reddish patch or irritated area, on the face, chest, shoulder, arm or leg that may crust, itch, hurt or cause no discomfort.
  • A shiny bump or nodule that is pearly or clear, pink, red or white. The bump can also be tan, black, or brown, especially in people of color, and can be mistaken for a normal mole.
  • A small pink growth with a slightly raised rolled edge and a crusted indentation in the center that may develop tiny superficial blood vessels over time.
  • A scar-like area that is white, yellow, or waxy in color. The skin appears shiny and taut, often with poorly defined edges. This warning sign may indicate an invasive BCC.

It is important to note that BCCs may differ from the descriptions above. In some people, BCCs look like non-cancerous skin conditions such as psoriasis or eczema. In people with darker skin, about half of the BCCs are pigmented (i.e. brown in color). However, in any case, if in doubt, check it out. Follow your own instincts and see your GP or dermatologist if you see anything new, changing or unusual on your skin.



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