A warning to not be a statistic of the sun - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

A warning to not be a statistic of the sun

LEXINGTON, SC (WIS) -

Have you ever had a health problem where you knew you really should have it checked, but you put it off?  A woman in Conway did that and she lost part of her face because of it.

Her desire to tan in the sun and tanning beds led to a powerful lesson she wants to share with you. 

Jenny Faulk spent most every day since she was a little girl in the sun and in tanning beds. 

"Barefoot, bathing suits, tank tops, shorts," she said. "And I never wore sunscreen. That's one thing you should always wear." 

Faulk learned a difficult lesson about overexposure to sun and the lack of wearing sun protection. That awareness started in 2014 when a bump developed on her nose. 

"It would be itchy, dry, and I would scratch and scratch," she said. "And I'd put moisturizers on it. And it would just never go away." 

She thought she was allergic to her moisturizer so she changed to a new product. 

"And then it got to where it was just getting bigger like wider and I thought well something's not right here.  It's just not going away." 

Faulk finally went to a dermatologist. 

"The minute she saw me she said, 'How long has that been on your nose?' And I said a year, maybe a little more. And I knew by the look on her face that it was more than dry skin." 

Faulk had basal cell carcinoma. Her delay in getting treatment allowed the skin cancer to spread so viciously, doctors had to remove part of her nose and a chunk of her cheek.  Dr. Todd Lefkowitz with Lexington Plastic Surgery at Lexington Medical Center then redesigned and repaired her face in a three-stage reconstruction. 

Dr. Lefkowitz took her forehead, raised it up and then turned it down to make her nose. At the same time, because a large part of her cheek was missing, he had to take cheek skin and cheek tissue that was beside it, raise it up and move it over to try and create a more natural nose/cheek junction. 

Dr. Lefkowitz then took cartilage from Jenny's ear and put it in her nose to give it more support. 

"We took a little bit of skin and we put it as a skin graft on the undersurface to line the internal part of the nose so when she breathes some of that air can flow easier and be humidified as it goes through." 

After the extra flap of skin on the nose from the forehead formed its own blood supply, Dr. Lefkowitz was able to detach it from the forehead giving it a smoother appearance. 

"The hope is that no one gets into her position," Lefkowitz said. "Obviously, the earlier you catch skin cancer, whether it's melanoma or non-melanoma, basal cell or squamous cell, it's very treatable and often times, it's treatable without surgery." 

Faulk has her face back, but only after a very invasive treatment plan that could have been avoided. 

She warns everyone, "If it's something there that doesn't go away within a couple weeks, get it looked at. Get it looked at. Don't wait." 

Dr. Lefkowitz emphasizes the need to bring up to your doctor anything questionable on your body. 

"The worst thing you can do is have a concern and wish it away 'cause often times, it doesn't go away and a lot of times it just gets worse."

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