Unfortunately, it seems like every day we hear about cancer afflicting someone we love. While there has been major movement when it comes to life-saving techniques used for the dreaded disease, it still remains one of the most common and devasting diagnosis.
One young lady’s experience with the dreaded disease will give you both awareness and inspiration.
When 28-year-old Marisha Dotson was in the midst of her spring semester in 2014, she was at an all-time high when it came to stress, as she was taking 19 credits at school while working three jobs. She was sick often and chalked it up to being overworked. One day she noticed a pink spot on her nose and thought it was a pimple related to the stress.
After monitoring it for a few days she realized that instead of going away, it was actually growing. Her doctor believed that it was an infection and he gave her antibiotics, but instead of shrinking, the red spot continued to grow.
“Every day it was increasing in size,” she said. “The pimple had grown to the size of a quarter in four weeks.”
Dotson’s fear kicked into high gear and she soon worried that the spot was something much more than a pimple. Her gut was right and after doctors took a biopsy she learned that she had squamous cell carcinoma, which is a common form of skin cancer.
“I was blindsided by it,” she said. “One minute I am fine. The next, I have this huge growth.”
It was growing at an alarming pace, and surgeons had to act fast. Shortly after the discovery, surgeons removed 2/3 of the cartilage in her nose and her entire septum. The result was a huge hole in her face. Doctors did their best to make her look more like her normal self and they pulled skin from her forehead and scalp to reconstruct her nose. The process was long and daunting.
Following the surgery, Dotson started radiation.
“It was intense. I got really, really sick and it burned my face to pieces,” she said. “People stare at you. And sometimes I look at old photos of myself and I get sad. I wish I could look like that, but, these scars show how much I wanted to live.”
After finishing radiation in August 2015, doctors found more cancer under her eye, on her top lip, and beside her nose. They removed the tumors but discovered that the cancer had spread to her mouth.
“It kept coming back,” she said. “It had metastasized not only into the oral cavity but all the way into the left side of my upper jaw. It was in my teeth and hard pallet.”
The surgeries only increased and soon doctors removed her teeth, hard pallet and upper jaw.
“I have a dental mouthpiece … It is the only way I can talk and without it, I have a huge open cavern,” she said. “I had to re-learn how to talk. I still have trouble saying s and r and t.”
While most people would have trouble coping following the three years that Dotson had to live through, she is making it her mission to bring awareness to skin cancer. She wants people to know that tanning isn’t the only way to get the disease, as she herself never went tanning and she’s never spent a lot of time in the sun.
“Awareness is important. A lot of people don’t know about skin cancer,” she said.
“I want the life I had before cancer but that is never going to happen. I am a different person,” she said. “I have no control over my body but I can still keep my spirit. I can fight it.”