Woman Bravely Documents Her Skin Cancer Treatment to Raise Awareness
Lifestyle| | By Valerie Cools
One of the many positive ways people are using social media these days is to raise awareness about health hazards and issues. When Margaret Murphy, 45, was diagnosed with precancerous skin lesions on her forehead, she decided to let her face do the talking.
Murphy, who lives in Dublin, Ireland, used to be addicted to the sun and tanning.
“I’ve spent over a decade living in Crete tanning myself to ‘look good,’ […] I’ve spent summers doing sunbeds just for a tan […], and a childhood running the streets all day with not a thought for sun factor,” she wrote on Facebook.
Around a month ago, Murphy was diagnosed with actinic keratoses, skin lesions that are a direct result of overexposure to the sun and UV rays. If left untreated, they can develop into skin cancer. Murphy was prescribed Efudex, a cream that would prevent the lesions from spreading. However, given the extent of the sun damage sustained by her skin, she was warned that the treatment would also burn the rest of her face, and would be quite painful.
Murphy decided to use this ordeal as an opportunity to show people the real consequences of sun damage and not wearing sunscreen, and hopefully motivate people to be more cautious than she was. She created a Facebook page dedicated to documenting her treatment and its painful side effects.
“I heard all the warnings years ago, and closed my eyes and ears to it all, maybe someone will open their eyes to this if it’s closer to home. I’m not looking for sympathy, just to raise awareness,” she wrote in her first post.
Murphy posted near daily photos of her face throughout January. The evolution on her skin as the treatment took effect is striking and difficult to watch: by the end, Murphy’s face had become raw and inflamed, her skin tight, itchy, and painful.
“Didn’t sleep till six this morning, had to apply moisturizer to it five times during the night,” she posted towards the end of her treatment. “I can’t open my mouth more than an inch. My eyes don’t even fully open today. I’d rather give birth five times than do this again.”
“I have a big threshold for pain,” she said in one of the few videos she posted, “but this hurts. Right now, I have to take it one day at a time.”
But Murphy never strayed from her goal of preventing others from having to go through the same thing.
“This is all for awareness,” she said. “If you have teenagers, show them this.”
Murphy has finally reached the end of her treatment, and her skin will gradually heal from here on out. In the meantime, her Facebook page has been shared all over the world, from Europe to Asia and North America.
“I’m feeling great, just waiting for the redness to disappear so I can go out,” Murphy told Your Daily Dish. “I’m amazed at the reaction from the public, lots seem to have paid attention to it.”
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, 58 million Americans suffer from actinic keratoses. While only 10 percent of these lesions evolve into cancers, it’s important to detect and treat them before it is too late.