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This is Brave

This is Brave: Life Post-Viral Video with Janet KJ103

Let me catch you up on my story! One day I woke up with what I thought was a whitehead pimple on the side of my nose. My only thought was that it was going to be painful when I popped it because of its location. The worst spot ever to get a pimple! I thought I got lucky when it popped all by itself; then I realized something was different. This pimple bled a lot. Three weeks later, there was still a scab, so my husband encouraged me to visit the doctor. I was pretty sure the doctor was going to laugh at me for making an appointment for a pimple. I was wrong, he took one look at it and said he was pretty sure I had skin cancer. Two months later they removed the skin cancer which turned out to be a mixture of basal and squamous cell carcinoma; the removal left a dime size hole in the side of my nose.

Now, the reconstruction begins. The hole was too big to cover with a skin graph, so I would get the dreaded forehead flap instead! The forehead flap consists of using skin from your forehead to cover the spot on your nose. Doesn’t sound that bad at first until you find out that the flap of skin then has to be fed by a vein, that hangs across your face, for three long weeks. It’s totally a sci-fi process. I’m not sure who thought this procedure up, but something tells me people weren’t jumping at the chance to be the first one to have it done.

After the three week process, they remove the vein, re-stitch your forehead and send you on your way.

The hardest part of this process is not the vein on your face. The hardest part of this process is not knowing where the next spot will be.  That’s what no one tells you about having skin cancer.  I was told that my spot was something I’ve had since I was a child.  A majority of my sun exposure came as a teen and young adult.  Every new freckle you see, you think its skin cancer.  Every time you get a pimple, you think its skin cancer. There is a part of you that lives in fear.

When you face challenges in life, the best thing you can do is share your story. Someone somewhere needs to hear that they are not alone in their fight.  My year was full of people reaching out to me who were about to have the same procedure. I loved seeing their before, during, and after photos. I love that I was able to be a light to them in their darkness because I know they will eventually be a light in someone else’s darkness.

This past year, I had the honor of working with the Stephenson Cancer Center and Miles Against Melanoma to bring free-to-the-public sunscreen dispensers to the OKC Zoo. Protecting yourself against skin cancer by using sunscreen is easy.  Sometimes we just need a simple reminder. Next time you’re out in the sun, break out some sunscreen and watch how quickly other people catch on. Sunscreen use is contagious! The only problem is… sunscreen doesn’t work if you don’t use it!

Read on to hear her STORY from last year and learn why instead of fear, Janet chose love in her journey.

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Skin Diaries This is Brave

This is Brave: Janet KJ103

I’m “that girl”. The girl who begged her mom to sign a permission slip so she could use the tanning bed at 16.  I’m the girl who would proclaim that “tan fat looks better than white fat” as she would hop into the tanning bed before heading out on summer vacation.  I’m the runner girl who trains and runs half marathons without wearing a hat or sunscreen.  I’m also the girl who never thought skin cancer would happen to her.  So when I was told that I had basal and squamous cell skin cancer on my nose, I was shocked to say the least. I didn’t even have a spot that I thought looked suspicious!

Before I knew it, I had a dime size hole in my nose and I was talking to a plastic surgeon about the procedure to pull a vein from my forehead to feed a skin flap that would be placed on my nose.  I would have two surgeries within a month.  One to create the forehead flap that would remain in place for three weeks. The other surgery would be to fix all the damage they were about to create.

Every doctor I saw during this process reassured me that it was “just basal cell”.  Those words, “just basal cell” led me to create a Facebook live video showing off an up-close look at my forehead flap because “just basal cell” sure did mess up my face.

The hard reality that no matter the type of skin cancer, it’s impact will change your life.  Soon I was receiving messages from all over the country from people who went thru the exact same procedure. People who didn’t leave their house for three weeks because of the way they looked.  People who felt all alone during their entire process. They told me that my story brought them comfort and that they admired me for being brave. Let me tell you this, I didn’t put my story out there because I was brave. I put my story out there because I was loved.  I was loved by so many people that I didn’t know I should hide out. I was showered with the type of love that pulls you out of a dark valley and places you high on the mountain top… Where you’ll be sure to wear sunscreen! Since I was so loved, it was my duty to share that love with others.  Love allows you to be brave, be strong, be vigilant, be a light… BE LOVE!

 

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