I never sunbathed but small spot turned out to be skin cancer – everyone should be aware

A MUM who says she has never sunbathed was shocked when a spot on her face turned out to be skin cancer.

Debbie Lindley, 49, is warning others it’s "not just sun worshippers" that get the potentially deadly disease.

The support worker fears she will eventually lose most of her face to skin cancer after having aggressive tumours removed from beneath her eye and her cheek.

Debbie, who lives in Knaresborough, North Yorkshire, says her face is already a “complete mess”.

"I look really weird, but my husband says I’m still absolutely beautiful,” Debbie, who lives with her husband Graham Voakes, 49, and their daughter Megan, 17, said.

"I had never sunbathed in my life and never went sun chasing, yet I got skin cancer. I didn’t understand how that was possible.

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"I feel like it was quite unlucky for me to have got it.”

Debbie got a diagnosis by fluke, when she went to her GP about an allergic rash on her right foot in March 2020.

She mentioned in passing a lump her daughter had noticed under her right eye – and was instructed to have it tested.

Debbie said: "I had no signs at all. I would never have even known to ask my GP if my daughter hadn't spotted the little pearl, which just looked like a spot under my eye.

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"I wasn’t concerned at all, but he said they’d investigate it and booked me in for an appointment two weeks later."

Debbie was told she had basal cell carcinoma (BCC), a cancer that starts in the cells lining the bottom of the epidermis or skin.

BCC is one of the most common forms of skin cancer, which accounts for 75 in every 100 cases in the UK, according to the NHS.

Debbie said: "I thought it was just a spot or maybe a cyst at worst and never would have expected cancer. It was really shocking to find out.

"I went to Harrogate District Hospital and when they told me they needed to operate, I was just petrified."

A few months later, in June, Debbie had the skin cancer removed at Harrogate District Hospital in Harrogate, North Yorkshire.

The 20 minute operation was a success. But Debbie was warned the cancer could return and become aggressive.

She said: "Apparently, this cancer isn’t normally fatal, but it grows extremely fast and can be incredibly disfiguring.

“I felt so blessed that we had at least caught it when we did.

"I was really worried about how I would look after surgery – if I’d be recognisable to my daughter and my husband.”

‘Complete mess’

Debbie's face remained clear for nearly two years, but she became obsessive about checking her skin for tumours.

She said: "I tried to move on with life after that. I just kept trying to live my life to the fullest.

"But it did affect me every day, because I didn’t want it to come back.

"I checked my skin every single morning and would constantly check my face."

In March 2022, alarm bells started ringing for Debbie when she noticed a sore "pimple" on her right cheek.

After tests, it was confirmed that the cancer was back, and this time, doctors moved fast to operate urgently. 

Debbie said: "They said the cancer was growing rapidly and if I didn’t have it removed as soon as possible, it could disfigure my face and make it more difficult for them to operate.

"The idea of needing a skin graft was the most terrifying part.

"I went into panic stations at this point and spent days crying and crying.”

Debbie had a nine-minute operation to remove the 3cm lesion in May 2022, which she says has left her looking a "complete mess".

She said: "My husband is really queasy. But even though I looked the way I did he greeted me with a big kiss when I got out of surgery which was lovely.

"There was nothing that made me happier than seeing him. He told me he was proud of me, and that I didn’t even look that bad."

While medics believe they have removed all the cancerous skin again, Debbie knows she is not in the clear yet.

There is still a 50/50 chance another tumour will form.

She said: “I know that I will have to keep losing more and more parts of my face.

"I have been married for 19 years and losing part of my face really affected my confidence. 

"I told him [husband] how anxious I was about how the scars would heal, but he has been my rock.

"He has kept reassuring me that he will still fancy me if I have scars."

Now Debbie is keen to stress the importance of people checking their faces for lesions so others don’t suffer how she has.

She said: "In some ways I feel so unlucky, but I also feel so lucky to have spotted both of these tumours early, before they ruined my face completely.

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"If you spot anything unusual, or if you feel something is wrong, just go and get checked. Speak to your GP.

"It could make the difference between life and death, or your face being saved or disfigured."

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