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Colorado woman warns of skin cancer dangers after facial reconstructive surgery

Douglas County woman warns of skin cancer after reconstructive surgery
Douglas County woman warns of skin cancer after reconstructive surgery 02:23

It took three surgeries to reconstruct a Colorado woman's nose after she had to have part of it removed because of skin cancer.

According to AdventHealth, melanoma is one of the most common forms of cancer in Colorado, because of our elevation and the popularity of outdoor activities. But as the summer sun heats up, doctors who work to manage the most severe cases of skin cancer are warning of its danger and one Douglas County skin cancer survivor is sharing her story.

"The face is the first thing people see," said Taryn Wilson.

In 2021, the Parker mom noticed some dry skin on the left side of her nose.

"I had a little piece of skin that would just flake, and then I would peel it, and it would bleed, and then scab, and it was just kind of a cycle," said Wilson.

After a biopsy, she was diagnosed with infiltrative basal cell carcinoma, a deep-penetrating form of skin cancer.

"It was very scary. I was worried I wouldn't look the same, that my life would be forever changed," said Wilson.

Taryn Wilson

Her dermatologist had to remove a chunk of Taryn's nose to get rid of the cancer. They referred her to plastic surgeon Dr. David Archibald, who works out of AdventHealth Castle Rock, for complex reconstruction.

"Although we didn't know how large or how serious the cancer would be, it was in a very tricky part of her face," said Archibald.

Archibald's practice does around 30 skin cancer reconstructions each week.

"Due to the size and location of where her cancer was, we had to recreate the structural part of her nose first," said Archibald.

Archibald used cartilage from Wilson's ear and skin from her cheek to replace what was lost.

"We designed a template that's the same shape, and it's hidden in the smile line of the cheek," said Archibald.

After three surgeries and months of healing, Wilson's face bears no sign of the aggressive cancer.

"It was phenomenal what the human body can do and that the skin took to my nose, and I can feel like myself again!" said Wilson.

"I thought it was like so crazy how she went from like her face looking all stitched up and stuff to it looking perfectly normal. Sometimes I'm like, 'wait, what side did you have it on again?'" said Taryn's daughter, 11-year-old Taylor Wilson.

Archibald says the severe scale of Taryn's cancer is uncommon for someone in their early 40s.

"I grew up always in the sun and not wearing a lot of sunscreen, and I went to college in Arizona, and I worked at a tanning bed in high school," said Wilson.

Today, she has new habits that she passes on to her children.

"I take care of my skin, I wear sunscreen, I wear hats," said Wilson.

"She's always like, 'Taylor, every time in the morning you have to put on sunscreen,' and I'm just like, 'Okay,' because of what happened to her," said Taylor Wilson.

She hopes others will take precautions and get screened early to protect the profile she once took for granted.

If you've had skin cancer removed in the past, it's not too late to get reconstructive work. But Archibald says it may be more complicated if the skin has healed. Most of this type of reconstructive work is covered by insurance.

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