A pastor I once knew said he believed that the word “cancer” was the profanity of our times, a word so obscene that it struck horror into the hearts of anyone who heard it. And having had family members suffer from about a half-dozen different permutations of the disease, I understood what he meant.
I’m sure that mother-of-two Bethany Greenway would, too. The fair-skinned, 39-year-old resident of Austin, Texas, was no stranger to cancer.
Her mother had battled melanoma when she was in her 30s, and in 2014, Greenway decided to see a dermatologist. A spot had appeared above her left eye, a mole-like spot that had begun to hurt.
The dermatologist thought that the spot was benign, but a 2016 biopsy eventually revealed the terrible truth: She had desmoplastic melanoma.
“I remember that my plastic surgeon called on a Thursday, just after my father-in-law took my oldest child swimming at the neighborhood pool,” Greenway told The Mighty. “The doctor asked if I was sitting down because we needed to have a serious conversation.”
Unlike most forms of melanoma, Greenway’s form of the disease didn’t present as a dark splotch on the skin. Rather, it had a whitish cast and looked something like a freckle.
Greenway decided to document the entirety of her melanoma journey on Facebook, and the results were gruesome. She posted pictures of a nearly two-inch-wide yellow clump of surgical packing that doctors pressed into the gaping hole in her forehead after her first surgery.
A skin graft used to cover the wound was so dark and raw looking that she dubbed it “Bacon.” When radiation left the side of her face scorched and chapped, she wrote that it made her feel like a dragon.
“I cannot be angry at genetics, the sun, and my body’s reaction to it,” she said in a post. However, she hopes that her experience will help others take more care of their skin.
“It makes me ill [to watch other people tan],” she added. “Please stop frying your skin.”
After seeing Greenway’s case, New York dermatologist Julie Karen also hopes more people will pay attention to the body’s largest organ. “Any spot that is changing — enlarging, not healing, changing colors, whether darkening or otherwise, becoming crusty, scabby, with altered borders — is suspicious and warrants immediate attention,” she told TODAY.
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