Melissa Lewis reveals skin cancer symptoms and treatments in face-to-face photos

By Carina Statis, Daily Mail Australia

Updated May 13, 2023 16:04, May 15, 2023 01:09

  • Melissa Lewis, 48, has been brutally beaten several times since 2009
  • She needs lifelong preventive treatment for skin cancer
  • Using sunscreen more often could have prevented it all.

Melissa Lewis regrets every moment spent poolside in her youth.

The porcelain-skinned mother of four has been diagnosed with three different types of skin cancer since 2009 and is now undergoing lifelong invasive treatments to stay healthy. facing.

The nurse, who has become the “unofficial face of skin cancer” on TikTok, spoke to FEMAIL about the brutal reality of the disease.

She revealed that she had never had typical symptoms such as “suspicious moles,” and explained that her cancer looked like flaky and uneven skin.

She needs ongoing treatment for the rest of her life to prevent the condition from becoming fatal.

In 2018, surgeons removed a melanoma from her ear and also biopsied a suspicious lesion on her forehead, which turned out to be an early form of skin cancer called Bowen’s disease.

Melissa said she was constantly burned by the sun by the pool all summer as a child and got tanned on the beach as a teenager due to “peer pressure”. admitted.

“Looking back now, if I had the time to put my younger self aside, I would say, ‘Listen, what you’re doing now may be fun, but you’ll have to pay a price for it later. ‘ And it could cost you your life,” Melissa said.

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Mother and nurse Melissa Lewis (pictured) need skin treatments every year to keep skin cancer from becoming deadly

Most people believe skin cancer looks like a “dark, scary mole,” but that wasn’t the case with Melissa. Because the early signs of her fatal illness were barely visible to the naked eye.

She never had a mole, but rather had “scaly bumps” on her skin.

“I had melanoma and it didn’t change my appearance at all. In fact, the diagnosis took two dermatologists. I had to look into it,” she said.

Nurses in Sydney are now on a mission to diligently check their skin and encourage others to protect their skin by applying sunscreen every day, regardless of the season.

She is now on a mission to encourage others to protect their skin by diligently checking their skin and applying sunscreen every day, regardless of the season (pictured with her husband).

Between 2009 and 2018, dermatologists found lesions all over her body, including her nose, forehead, ears, chest and calves.

Adding to her traumatic decade, Melissa was diagnosed with breast cancer and nearly died of sepsis in 2017 after a botched gynecological surgery.

But this is the battle against skin cancer she’s promoting online, and she wants to warn millions of sun-loving Australians about the consequences of not protecting their skin.

Now Melissa has to undergo annual treatment for her painful red, blistered, peeling and sore face to prevent Bowen’s disease on her forehead from entering her bloodstream.

One of the scariest blows came when a dermatologist confirmed that Melissa had melanoma in her left ear.

Photo after sunlight photodynamic therapy (dPDT)

“It was a total shock because that word is synonymous with cancer. It’s the highest level because melanoma is going to the deepest layers of the skin and trying to invade,” she said.

“We were very lucky that we caught it at stage 0. It hadn’t entered the bloodstream yet.”

Doctors had Melissa undergo surgery in 2018 to remove the melanoma and reconstruct her ear.

Prior to the procedure, she asked her doctor to examine the affected areas of her scalp, which turned out to be Bowen’s disease.

“This has been a real journey and it has shaken my confidence because my face is how I show myself to the world,” she said.

“But I got out of here and became a kinder person who knows more about the world and the importance of taking care of my skis.”

She now requires sunlight photodynamic therapy for the rest of her life. This therapy is a treatment that uses sunlight as a light source to treat superficial skin cancer.

Melissa says the painful procedure involves “scratching the surface of the skin as if using sandpaper” to exfoliate and focus on areas where the sun damages the most.

For Melissa, this was the nose and forehead.

Then apply a “photosynthetic agent” followed by a strong sunscreen.

Between 2009 and 2018, the brave mother was brutally beaten by dermatologists who discovered lesions all over her body, including her nose, forehead, ears, chest and calves.
Photo: One of the lesions before doctors discovered
Photo: Skin after sunlight photodynamic therapy (dPDT)

Summary of Melissa’s cancer history:

2009 – A basal cell carcinoma (BCC) spot found on the left shoulder was found and removed

2009-2013 – Annual skin check and cryotherapy treatment to prevent further concerns

2014 – A biopsy was performed on the back of the right calf to remove a potentially ominous spot. The right calf had BCC-type features and was treated with cryotherapy since 2014.

2016 – A calf patch did not respond, so a biopsy was performed and excised in a dermatologist’s office with wide margins.

The cancer continued to get worse and cryotherapy alone was not enough to stop it.Sunlight photodynamic therapy was initiated on the entire face – the more adversely affected areas were the forehead and nose.

2017 – Another BCC lesion was detected in the nose and removed.Needs plastic surgery and skin graft from the forehead

2018 – A melanoma was found on the left tragus and was removed. Plastic surgery was required to reconstruct the ears.No transplant needed this time thankfully

2018 – Another BCC was found in the upper right chest, resected by plastic surgery and forehead/scalp biopsy in theater

This recurred as Bowen’s disease (intraepithelial squamous cell carcinoma). This too was resected with wide margins by plastic surgery a few weeks later.

2022 – Diagnosed with breast cancer and took a year off skin treatment

now: Twice-yearly skin monitoring and painful solar photodynamic therapy annually to continue to eliminate superficial and deep cancers

When she first underwent treatment, she had to expose her whole body to sunlight for two hours to activate the drug and “kill only the cancer cells.”

After treatment, the skin will remain burning and peeling for up to 7 days, sometimes longer.

When I first had this surgery in 2017, another basal cell carcinoma on the side of my nose was exposed and then removed. In 2018, another BCC was resected from the right upper chest.

BCC is the most common and least dangerous form of skin cancer and is often red or pale in color and looks like a lump.

The most lethal form is melanoma, which can be life-threatening if left untreated.

Worryingly, none of Melissa’s carcinomas looked like “obvious cancerous moles.”

“None of my lesions have ever looked dark and scary,” she said.

“Since 2005, my skin has been bumpy, red in texture, and scaly. I had a lesion there that hurt to brush my hair, but I just didn’t know it at the time.” and was bleeding frequently.

“If you dry your face with a towel, your skin will be dry and bleeding.”

A dermatologist found the first BCC on Melissa’s shoulder in 2009

Little did she know that it was just the beginning of an ongoing series of health concerns involving painful treatments, surgeries, and devastating horrors.

Until 2013, she had annual skin exams and regular cryotherapy of her entire face, shoulders and back. This included freezing sunburn marks and hidden precancerous lesions.

In 2014, she underwent a biopsy on the back of her calf and another potentially sinister lump with “BCC-type features” was detected during a physical examination.

“That’s where you least expect problems, but when you think about it, the sun hits your soles without you even realizing it,” Melissa said.

In 2016 it still hadn’t responded.

At that point, Melissa said the cancer was “clearly getting worse” and cold therapy alone “wasn’t enough” to fight other lesions emerging from the surface of the skin.

At this time, she started sunlight photodynamic therapy.

Melissa says all this could have been prevented if she had used sunscreen as a child and teen.

Melissa says all this could have been prevented if she had used sunscreen as a child and teenager.

“We were always on fire when we were kids. I vividly remember my sister and I sitting in front of a fan, applying lotion to our burnt bodies and peeling the skin off after a few days,” she said. recalled.

“Me and my brother had days when we went to school with blisters on our backs and shoulders from sunburn. And I don’t get a sunburn, I just get a burn.

“I think it was normal back then to spend all day in the pool wearing SPF 15 sunscreen during the summer, and I never thought of reapplying.”

Her tiny body goes bright red in a one-piece swimsuit silhouette.

As a teenager, she attended an all-girls school in Manly and was always tanning after school in the summer, so “the center of the world was the beach.”

“The peer pressure to get a tan was as strong as smoking and drinking,” she said.

What are the signs of skin cancer?

There are three main types of skin cancer: melanoma (including nodular melanoma), basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma.

melanoma: It is the deadliest form of skin cancer and can spread to other parts of the body if left untreated. They appear as new spots or as existing spots that change color, size, and shape.

Basal cell carcinoma: The most common and least dangerous skin cancer. They are red, pale, or pearly in color and appear as lumps or dry, scaly areas. It usually grows slowly in a sunny location.

Squamous cell carcinoma: It has thickened, red, scaly patches that may bleed easily, crust, or ulcerate. It usually takes several months to grow in a sunny location. It is more likely to occur in people over the age of 50.

“The message I have to give people is that skin cancer is not what you think it is and you should go see a dermatologist every year for a skin exam,” she said. rice field.

“At the time, I was living a carefree teenage life, following what all my friends were doing. To do.

“The damage I have done is so great. I will have skin cancer on my face forever.

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