Mother-of-two who was left with a gaping hole in her nose after being diagnosed with skin cancer admits she was terrified her young daughters would be scared to look at her
- Stacy Bowen, 45, found a scab on her nose that turned out to be basal cell carcinoma (BCC), a type of non-melanoma skin cancer
- The Twin Lake, Michigan health and wellness coach underwent a Mohs procedure to have it removed, along with a chunk of one of her nostrils
- She was worried that her daughters, ages nine and ten, would be scared to look at her, but they got used to it quickly
- Stacy said she was never a ‘sun worshiper’ but has grown more careful about sun protection since her health scare
A Michigan mother was terrified of scaring her own children when a spot on her face turned out to be skin cancer — and left her with a gaping hole in her nose.
Twin Lake-based health and wellness coach Stacy Bowen, 45, became concerned about a small scab on the side of her nose earlier this year, and soon learned that it was basal cell carcinoma.
After undergoing surgery, she lost half of her right nostril, leaving a hole that would need to be rebuilt — but her biggest concern was how her kids, ages nine and ten, would taken it.
Health scare: A Michigan mother with skin cancer says she had to have a chunk of her nostril removed
Kiddos: Twin Lake-based health and wellness coach Stacy Bowen, 45, was mostly scared about how her daughters would react
Stacy was staying with family in Florida in February of 2020 when she noticed the scab on her nose.
The scab appeared to heal over, but fell off whenever Stacy touched it, causing her concern.
As soon as she got home, she had it checked out, and in May she was referred to a dermatologist who did a biopsy told her what the problem was: basal cell carcinoma (BCC), a type of non-melanoma skin cancer.
‘I felt scared about the diagnosis,’ Stacy said. ‘I didn’t find out for a week after the biopsy that the skin cancer was benign and not malignant, the killing kind. The waiting was incredibly stressful but I was relieved it was only benign.
‘I had a friend who passed away from malignant skin cancer at the age of twenty-three. By the time she was diagnosed, it had spread throughout her body.’
Stacy was relieved that the skin cancer she had wasn’t malignant, and made an appointment for surgery to remove it.
‘I was scheduled for the Mohs procedure to have the spot removed in September of 2020, and when I arrived at the dermatologists office, I was informed by the doctor that because of the location he would need to get plastic surgery involved,’ she said.
Before: Stacy was staying with family in Florida in February of 2020 when she noticed the scab on her nose
‘I knew from my own medical background that this was not a good thing. I realized in that moment that this was not going to be a simple “scrape the spot” procedure and skip happily away for more 2020 fun.’
She soon learned that she would be losing a chunk of her nose.
‘I saw the plastic surgeon, who looked at my nose and informed me that I would be losing half of my nostril on the right side of my nose and that I would have cheek tissue implanted into the nose area and cartilage tissue inserted from the ear to rebuild the structure of the nose back up,’ she said.
‘He then proceeded to pull up the pictures online for me to look at. I remember sitting there, seeing the pictures and I broke down badly. I didn’t see this one coming at least not to this extent.
‘I was speechless. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t ask questions. I couldn’t comprehend what was happening. All I could think about was not scaring my girls when they looked at me.
Stacy has two kids, ten-year-old Presley and nine-year-old Priya, and she was afraid of what they would think when they saw her.
Big deal: After learning it was basal cell carcinoma (BCC), a type of non-melanoma skin cancer, she had surgery to have it removed
‘I was speechless. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t ask questions. I couldn’t comprehend what was happening,’ she said
The girls, though, have been totally supportive.
‘I have never hidden anything from my girls and I wasn’t going to hide this as I don’t want them to feel like they ever have to hide stuff from me,’ she said.
‘I took the bandages off the same day I had surgery. I sat my girls down and I told them, “Girls, this is life and these are the things that happen when we are not mindful and I don’t want you to make the same mistakes I did and going through stuff like this is how we become stronger. It is life.”
‘By the end of the night, Presley, Priya, and I were joking about me not having to dress up for Halloween and how I could just throw some fake blood on my face and I was ready to roll.
‘I tossed off the face mask that week and embraced my “new face.” My girls continued to tell me week after week, sometimes daily, how good my face looked and how well it was healing.’
Her recovery, meanwhile, has been ‘just as emotional as physical.’
‘I have had to accept that I not only had skin cancer but that I have a 50 per cent chance of getting it again and there’s nothing I can do at this point,’ she said.
The damage: She quickly sat her kids down after to show them her nose
Safety first! Stacy said she was never a sun worshiper, but she wasn’t has careful with SPF as she could have been
‘I have also had to accept the fact that my face will never be the same as it was pre-cancer. The week after surgery was the worst. I looked like I had gotten in a fight with a heavyweight boxer and he definitely won.’
As for the physical aspect, she stayed home in bed, and returned to have over 20 stitches removed ten days after the procedure.
‘I still have no feeling on the right side of my nose but I don’t think about it much. I will be left with some slight scars and the grafted skin areas are still very red. I have no sensation in the grafted skin and I’m told the regeneration of this tissue can take up to a year,’ she said.
‘I am more conscious of my face now even though everyone else says they don’t notice it and it’s healing great. I am hopeful and optimistic that healing will contribute to improve the overall appearance of the scars left behind.’
Stacy’s cancer ordeal has made her extra vigilant when it comes to sun protection, not only for herself, but her children as well.
Stacy insisted that she has never been a ‘sun worshiper,’ nor has she ever dedicated her time to topping up her tan — but she admitted she wasn’t too vigilant about protecting herself, either.
‘I never went over the top with the hats, sunglasses, sunblock, and clothes to protect my skin as I don’t think most people consciously do. I never knew or imagined that due to my fair skin in general I had a higher risk of developing skin cancer later in life,’ she said.
She said: ‘I am hopeful and optimistic that healing will contribute to improve the overall appearance of the scars left behind’
Before cancer she would wear SPF 30 sunscreen sporadically, but now Stacy wears SPF 50+ every day without fail.
‘For the healing and scars now, I use Wound Care by NeoRelief which is an all-natural healing/scarring agent and I also use Vitamin E daily.
‘I use sunblock SPF50+ everyday now as a foundation. I wear more hats, more sunglasses and am much more aware of my skin, the sun and the long term damage it can cause.
‘I now make my girls wear sunblock and cover up as well,’ she went on. ‘My girls have beautiful dark skin and brown up so amazingly in the sun — they never burn but I’ve learned that this fact does not matter where skin cancer is concerned. It doesn’t pick and choose its victims.’
She also shared words of encouragement for those who’ve gone through something similar.
‘Stay strong, remember that you are here to live another day. Your face, your features, your figure do not define you. Superficial beauty is skin deep, true beauty is found within your soul. You can and will overcome this. You are not alone,’ she said.
‘You will be stronger from your battle scars, they may knock you down for a while but they have not and will not keep you down. We find strength from our struggles.