From Andrew Donovan:
Most days at NewsChannel 9, I’m sharing other people’s stories. This time, I’m telling my own about Skin Cancer.
I had basal cell carcinoma under my right eye. It’s not nearly as dangerous as melanoma, but much more common.
Untreated, the mark will continue to grow and disfigure the victim’s skin. In my case, my face. The best solution (which doesn’t sound so good as a TV reporter) was to cut it out.
It’s a weird feeling to be a man and wear makeup. In this case, looking at myself that closely every day is the only way I would have noticed anything out of the ordinary.
In the summer of 2013, when I was putting on my makeup at NewsChannel 9, I noticed a small pink dot. When I say small, I mean small. A prescription cream didn’t heal it. Still, it didn’t alarm me. But it alarmed my doctor.
My doctor said, “it might be basal cell carcinoma — a form of skin cancer.”
I confidently said, “no, it’s not.”
The scoop of skin, the biopsy, he tested proved me wrong.
As a reporter, I do a lot of research. I spent hours on Google, reading about basal cell carcinomas, looking for treatment options, and shopping for doctors.
I found out about Mohs surgery. It’s a method in which the dermatologist removes only one piece of small skin at a time, one stage at a time.
The sample is tested, in real time, in the hope that there are clean margins. Cancer on the edge means there might be more cancer back on your face, requiring another stage of Mohs.
The process repeats until the samples are negative.
My research brought me to New York City and dermatologist Dr. Deborah Sarnoff. She’s now president of The Skin Cancer Foundation.
In August of 2014, she took out my tiny cancerous tumor with one stage of Mohs.
I didn’t even need plastic surgery. The wound would heal on its own.
I watched the area closely, waiting for a scar. What came was worse. This round little thing kept growing – big enough to be noticeable in pictures.
I returned to New York City to see Dr. Sarnoff. Another biopsy showed another basal cell carcinoma in the same spot. It was bigger this time.
More cancer means more Mohs. The first time was so easy, I didn’t expect it to be any different. I finished a live shot in the Town of Lansing at 5 p.m. Thursday and drove to New York City for my Friday morning appointment.
The NewsChannel 9 holiday party was the same night. I had every intention of being back in time, ready to go.
One round of Mohs didn’t do it. Nor did the second. Nor did the third. It took four layers of my skin to remove all of the cancer. That’s a lot. The most discouraging wait of my life.
It left a gaping hole in my skin. That’s the reason I went to New York City. The same office also has a plastic surgeon. Dr. Robert Gotkin spent about two hours meticulously sewing me up.
The stitches looked better than the hole – but not much. Now came the months of healing.
I’m grateful the scar is easily covered up by makeup. Even without, people tell me they don’t notice. I always see it and hope I can continue to improve how it looks.
I will live with the scar — not only on my face, but on my mind. I worry every day, especially when the sun is shining.
I also live with the responsibility to get my skin checked twice a year, so doctors can stay on top of spots that don’t belong. Instead of having to go to New York City so often, I found Dr. Brian Raphael of Empire Dermatology in DeWitt.
Skin checks are simple. Wearing a medical gown, the dermatologist examines every inch of your body – literally head to toe, from your scalp to the bottom of your feet.
Earlier this month, I got my regular skin check. I was concerned about the same spot again. Dr. Raphael wants to watch it, but thinks it’s just the scar.
Right now, Dr. Raphael reports that my skin is perfectly healthy.
Here what I hope you take away from my story:
- Skin cancer can happen to anyone.
- Go to the dermatologist. Get a skin check.
- Sunscreen. Sunscreen. Sunscreen. Wear it every day. SPF 30.