A woman has revealed how her chickenpox scar developed into deadly skin cancer — nearly 30 years after she caught the virus.
Louise Thorell, 32, from Ashington, Northumberland, England felt self-conscious about the mark but had no idea it could be anything sinister.
But in 2018, the scar which she had had on her face since she was five started to change. It felt tougher, waxier than my normal skin. Around that time, I accidentally scratched my scar and after that I had issues. It would heal, a scab would form, it would fall off and an open wound would be there until a new scab would form,” Thorell said.
I dealt with it for a few months until I got an infection. My under-eye swelled and my wound site got bigger each time it would open and heal again. I got two infections in it and an infection in my nose and above my lip too. After the first infection, I noticed it had changed in appearance. It had tiny little blood vessel veins around it.”
Thorell, who has a family history of cancer, began searching her symptoms online as she began to fear the worst.
“My nana had melanoma on the left side of her face, pretty much the same place,” she said.
“I made an appointment with my doctor and was referred very quickly to the melanoma clinic.”
A few weeks later, she was shocked to discover she had developed basal cell carcinoma (BCC), a common type of skin cancer.
“I avoid the sun. I have always been ghostly pale. My consultant asked me if I ever use sunbeds or sunbathe and then in the same breath he said, ‘oh, I don’t think you do as you’re so pale’. He did tell me it did start off as a chickenpox scar and it’s possible I’ve had BCC for years,” Thorell said.
“I was told it was rarer for people my age to get BCC as it’s usually pensioners who get it on their face/scalp from prolonged sun exposure.
“After the first time they took cells away, I was bandaged up and was told to go for lunch and a drink and come back in two hours to see if they got all the cancer first time. Unfortunately, they hadn’t. I had to go back in theatre and get more taken off. This happened a total of three times. Three times they had to go back on my face and take cells away.”
It left her visibly scarred so she needed further corrective surgery to reduce the damage.
Despite the ordeal she has suffered, Thorell says she feels “lucky” that her diagnosis wasn’t worse.
“At first I wasn’t expecting the sheer size of my scar to be as big as it is. I did feel awful about how I looked. I tried to joke about it and make fun to lighten my mood,” she said.
“This lasted a few weeks. When I started to see it healing, my goodness, my spirits were lifted.
“I just feel lucky and blessed that it wasn’t worse. My face is forever changed but I’m skin cancer-free.”