What “just skin cancer”, the “good kind” looks like

In December, I got an unwanted nose job! My friend John, who is an awesome dermatologist, noticed a spot on the end of my nose when our families went for a bike ride (no makeup!).  I had noticed it before and wondered if I should be concerned, but it wasn’t what you typically see in the “if your moles look like this, be worried” photo arrays; it was more like a pimple that would bleed a tiny bit, then crust over, then go away, then come back again and again.

I scheduled a biopsy, and the diagnosis was Basal Cell Carcinoma. It was also determined to be “infiltrative” which (in layman’s terms) means tiny on the surface, but branching out under the skin’s surface.  So, I had skin cancer, but it was the “good“ kind – yay, me!  Unfortunately, it was in one of the worst possible locations from a cosmetic perspective – the tip of my nose, where there isn’t any excess skin that can be pulled together to repair the wound. Boo, me!

I spent a morning at Duke Mohs Surgery having it removed, and immediately afterwards, the kindest thing I could say about my appearance was that I looked like a frankenpig. The squiggly line in the non-bandaged “before” photo shows where the Dr. made the incision to get enough skin to cover the damaged area. I was assured that once my face healed I would not inspire children to shrink in fear and cry out, “Dear God! What is that thing?” (obligatory Princess Bride reference…) But for the next few weeks, I would be bandaged (and maybe have a couple of black eyes); I asked my friends to be kind, lie, and tell me I looked beautiful regardless!

It’s been almost 6 weeks now, and my nose is still a work in progress.  The swelling is gone except for some puffiness in the area of the flap; I’m not sure how much that will go down over time, so we shall see.  The incision itself is still red and quite noticeable, but it’s less so with makeup (I’m using a primer with spf, concealer, and a powder foundation with spf – same as I used before the surgery, and it is pretty effective at minimizing the appearance of the scar without looking like I have it caked on).  From across the room, no one is doing double-takes at the sight of me, so I am grateful for that at least, and I am hopeful that as time passes everything will fade; in the long run, I am hoping for something that looks more like Harry Potter and less like Tyrion Lannister (book version)!

In conclusion, allow me to be your cautionary reminder to get your skin checked annually and if you notice anything weird, don’t wait for your annual appointment to get it looked at. While you’re at it, ladies, get your mammograms, too, because sadly, I know as a breast cancer survivor that having one kind of cancer doesn’t make you immune to other kinds of cancer!

Before surgery – showing the marked location (circle) and the approximate location of the incision he would make to repair the wound.


Here are images of Kelley from Day 1 post op to 6 weeks post-surgery with makeup

Thank you for sharing your journey with us Kelley

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