‘I thought it was a blind pimple’

Kristie Webster had to undergo immediate surgery to remove the aggressive skin cancer that have developed under her eye. 

Slip, slop, slap. Three four-letter words we all know, and yet how many of us actually apply sunscreen every day? Not just when heading out to the beach, but actually 365 days of the year?

Unfortunately, majority of us don’t, which is partly to blame for Australia holding the title of having the highest rate of invasive melanoma in the world. In fact, 2 out of 3 Aussies are diagnosed with skin cancer by the time they’re 70 – and it’s something 32-year-old Kristie Webster experienced.

“I’d be lucky enough to put a tinted moisturiser on my face before leaving the house,” she tells body+soul. “I’d wear a hat but only if it was dirty or it went with my outfit.”

But in February 2018, Kristie was applying her face moisturiser and felt an unusual small lump under her eye.

“At first, I didn’t think anything of it, I thought it was a blind pimple. A couple months later, when telling my sister about the lump, she immediately convinced me to get a skin check.”

Within a week of getting her skin checked, Kristie was given unexpected news.

“I was told by the surgeon that I had an aggressive BCC (Basil Cell Carcinoma) growing in my face that needed removing.”

BCC is the most common type of skin cancer, which forms on the skin’s top layer and develops on parts of the body that are often exposed to the sun, like the head, face, shoulders and arms. It often starts with a small lump or a sore that doesn’t heal.

Kristie recalls: “I was in shock that my results came back positive for skin cancer and that it was on my face.”

She was referred to see a dermatologist, who was able to check all her freckles, moles and spots on her skin.

The 32-year-old was told the BCC was “growing aggressively” and if she didn’t have the BCC removed immediately, it would spread across her entire cheek. Kristie took action immediately and booked her surgery with a plastic surgeon.

“The morning of my surgery I was nervous,” she explains. “I guess this was because my face was going to be cut open, and I was also anxious if it may have spread or if the surgery would be successful and they would get it all. I wasn’t so much scared about going under, but just praying it hadn’t spread.”

Post-surgery

Luckily, the surgery was successful and the surgeon was able to completely remove the cancer.

“The recovery took several weeks as I had stitches and had to be careful not to have too much blood rush to the area to affect the scarring. Once the stitches were removed, I wore a skin colour tape over the scar for another 2 weeks.

“After that I was left with a deep red scar in the shape of a P on my face. I put a scar treatment cream on my face every day and was so conscious about getting any sun on my face.”

Although Kristie’s scar is still quite prominent, she sees it as a daily reminder to be sun smart.

“At first, I was conscious of my scar and always wearing makeup to try and hide it but now I just look at it and am grateful and thankful as it could have been worse.

“It is a daily reminder to continue to be sun smart and wear sunscreen, a hat, sunnies and protective wear.”