When 39-year-old Bethany Gambardella-Greenway noticed a dark spot on her forehead in 2015, she wasn’t all that worried about what it could be.
Since the Austin, Texas, resident was pregnant at the time, she assumed it was probably caused by hormonal changes. Even when she went to a dermatologist to get it checked out, she was told that it was just a liver spot. But when a mole appeared within a year after she gave birth to her daughter, she learned that she had skin cancer.
A biopsy of the mole revealed that Gambardella-Greenway had desmoplastic melanoma, a particularly aggressive type of melanoma.
Doctors had to remove it and a large surrounding piece of skin, then gave her a skin graft.
She lost her entire left eyebrow and some underlying muscle in the area.
The healing process was painful and difficult, but Gambardella-Greenway always managed to find some humor in her situation.
She began calling her skin graft “bacon,” which had been taken from her upper thigh.
As her newly grafted skin healed, she unfortunately got more bad news. The cancer had spread to her bones and lymph nodes, and she had to start immunotherapy in October 2016.
“The radiation was absolutely the worst part. It was hell plain and simple,” she said. “It fried the inside of my mouth. My throat was so sore. My skin was covered in sores, I lost my ability to taste food, my voice was hoarse, at about week three my hair began to fall out on the treated area. By the time I was done with treatment I had lost about forty pounds because eating had become such a miserable chore.”
But throughout the whole excruciating process of treatment, she pressed onward for herself and her family, especially her young daughters.
Now she’s done with treatment and in the clear, but she’s sharing her journey to warn others about the dangers of the sun and tanning beds.
“Please stop sun bathing and going to tanning salons,” she said. “A tan isn’t a healthy glow — it’s damaged skin.”