A TEACHER who thought a blemish on her nose was simply dry skin was actually suffering from a skin cancer which would have ‘eaten her face away’ if she’d left it.
Now Cindy Biddle, from Panama City, Florida, USA, has shared photos from her treatment for basal cell carcinoma.
The 42-year-old mum of three told how she answered the stares of cruel strangers with a plucky reply that stopped them dead in their tracks.
“I tell them, ‘Dude – I had cancer. Get over it’,” she said.
Cindy, who was diagnosed in 2015, told how she had been subjected to stares while undergoing treatment.
“One time, I turned around on a group of guys walking behind me and they jumped back with a look of disgust,” she said.
“It reduced me to tears, and when I saw them again the day after, they were all laughing.
“This time, I kept my cool and told them: ‘Don’t act like jerks. It’s obvious I’ve had surgery.’
“They turned tail and ran.”
The history teacher explained: “My scars were pretty jarring, but there’s no way I was going to hide away.
“If I caught anyone giving me an unwarranted stare, I told it to them straight.”
Cindy initially thought her skin cancer was just dry skin.
“I tried moisturising, and when that didn’t work I picked at the blemish until it bled,” she recalled. “It just wouldn’t get better and in the end my doctor gave me antibiotics thinking I perhaps had an infection.”
She continued: “Eventually, it healed, but I was left with a little crater of scar tissue on my nose.”
A year later another patch of dry skin emerged near Cindy’s scar – and again it developed into an open sore.
She was prescribed an antibiotic cream but this time the unsightly spot refused to heal.
Cindy continued: “One day I had a terrible migraine. I couldn’t get into my usual doctor’s surgery, so I went to another walk-in clinic.
“While we were discussing the migraine, I took my glasses off and asked the doctor if he could examine my nose.
“He took one look and told me to get to a dermatologist straight away.”
What is basal cell carcinoma?
According to the British Skin Foundation, there aretwo main types of skin cancer: melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer.
Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is a non-melanoma skin cancer and is the most common type of all skin cancer in the UK.
It can occurr anywhere on the body, but is most common on places which are exposed to the sun.
BCCs can vary greatly in their appearance, but often look like a scab that bleeds and does not heal completely..
They’re diagnosed either through appearance or a skin biopsy and are most commonly treated through surgery.
Two weeks later, Cindy was diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma, a type of skin cancer sometimes known as a ‘rodent ulcer’, according to the NHS.
A common cause is exposure to UV light from the sun or sunbeds.
“Like a lot of teachers in the USA, I took an extra job in the summer to supplement my income,” Cindy said.
“I’d been working as a bar tender at a local Mexican place and had spent a fair amount of time in the sun and on the beach.
“Growing up, no one gave a second thought to sun protection and I spent a lot of my childhood outside in the sunshine.
“I was told the cancer had probably been growing for decades, possibly since I was 12 years old.”
Cindy was warned she would need radical and invasive surgery to remove the tumour, followed by a plastic procedure to replace her left nostril.
“I forewarned my students at school about what was going to happen,” she recalls. “I didn’t want to go back into class and scare them.”
Husband Jonathan, 37, also a qualified teacher who now runs his own fencing firm, was beside Cindy in theatre as she went under the knife.
“He had to leave when they were pulling the tumour out,” Cindy says. “Everyone was shocked by the size of this thing.”
Then, during plastic surgery, Cindy’s cheek skin was stretched to cover the hole caused by removing the tumour.
Doctors also rebuilt her lost nostril from a flap of skin peeled from her forehead.
She said “I was prepared for how I was going to look, and although it was shocking, I was just glad to be alive.”
I wear factor 30 sunscreen every day now – even if it’s pouring with rain – and I always wear a hat outside.
She continued: “This was something I had to do, because otherwise the cancer was literally going to eat my face off. I could have lost an eye or my entire nose.”
Within 10 days, Cindy was out and about.
“I tried to stay upbeat about it,” she says. “I even took the opportunity to try and educate some young ladies about using sunscreen.”
Cindy returned to the classroom within weeks.
“I couldn’t afford not to,” she said. “The kids were amazing.”
Two months after surgery, Cindy – who also works as a sales consultant for a cosmetics firm– underwent another op, this time to have her ‘forehead flap’ removed.
She says that within six months her scars had faded and are now almost invisible.
The mum to Libby, 21, Lucas, 14, and Isaac, 12, continued: “I’m determined to get the word out there that skin cancer is a big deal.
“I’ve only been to the beach once since my op and I was very nervous, sitting under an umbrella the whole time.
“I wear factor 30 sunscreen every day now – even if it’s pouring with rain – and I always wear a hat outside.
“A lot of my friends have stopped lying around on tanning beds. I have to say – take a look at the pictures. They would certainly stop me.”