Here’s more good reason not to skimp on SPF.
A Canadian mother resembled an “acid attack victim” after taking chemotherapy cream for her skin cancer — which she developed after neglecting to use sunscreen for years.
“It looks like I’ve had an acid attack,” Honoure Stark told SWNS of the topical treatment, which she’s forced to wear six hours a day. The 53-year-old Toronto resident added, “[Using chemotherapy cream] is like pouring acid on your skin and your skin bubbling up. That’s exactly what it feels like and that’s exactly what it looks like.”
Stark uses the cream to treat her basal cell carcinoma, one of the most common forms of skin cancer with 3.6 million people getting diagnosed annually in the US alone. While generally not fatal, the condition often recurs even after successful treatment, and can increase the risk of developing other types of skin cancer.
The mother of four’s epidermal ordeal began in 2008, when she noticed a colorless, “dime-sized indentation” with a scaly texture on her forehead.
Stark initially dismissed the blemish as eczema as she was prone to the condition and “had very dry skin,” SWNS reported.
However, the woman reportedly grew concerned after her “forehead became indented with that lesion” several months later. So, she decided to seek an expert.
“It was eating my skin and tissue and getting extremely close to the bone on my forehead and that scared me into seeing my doctor,” Stark recalled.
That’s when she received the devastating diagnosis.
Said the patient, “I went into her office, I was quite nervous and didn’t know anything about skin cancer, and when she immediately looked at my forehead and said ‘You have cancer. We need to set up a date for surgery to remove that.’”
“It was very scary because I didn’t know what type of cancer I had,” exclaimed Stark, adding that she was so upset by the doc’s “lack of empathy” that she “started to cry.”
Hoping to land someone with more insight — and perhaps better bedside manner — Stark changed doctors in 2009. The following year, she underwent a procedure to have the lesion removed.
Unfortunately, that didn’t alleviate the issue: The cancer has since metastasized all over the surface of Stark’s body, including her neck, arm and chest.
“I’ve had many, many lesions over the years, I couldn’t count the amount,” she said. “I have the skin of a 70 or 80-year-old woman.”
Since 2010, Stark has undergone a staggering 30 skin surgeries — like a game of whack-a-mole.
The unfortunate gal attributes her plight to the fact that “I never protected my skin.”
“I put sunscreen on my children, however I didn’t wear sunscreen at all,” she explained. “I had sunscreen in my home but it wasn’t something that I thought about every morning before I went outside.”
Stark added, “I didn’t wear a hat or stand under an umbrella, and that’s exactly why I have this much cancer.”
In order to safeguard her sensitive skin, the mother must now wear sunscreen no matter what the weather, and can never expose herself to direct sunlight again.
Stark was also prescribed the aforementioned chemotherapy cream in 2012, which she analogized to “a poison for cancerous cells.”
“You apply it and it only picks up the cancerous or precancerous cells and there will be red, ugly scabbing skin,” she explained.
Unfortunately, one of the side effects was that it made her “skin very hot and incredibly itchy” as if there were “red, burning ants running on your skin,” she said.
And the pain wasn’t just physical: “It makes my skin look like I’ve had a very bad accident,” explained Stark. “I have had people walk away from me. It used to hurt my feelings and I used to feel shunned.”
She added, “People would point at me and just not understand if I had a disease that was contagious, or someone had violently hurt me or I’d been in a car accident.”
Stark now hopes to use her ordeal as a cautionary tale highlighting the perils of shunning sunscreen.
“I want people to understand that small behaviors that they can incorporate into their routine can stop this from happening,” said Stark, who frequently posts sunscreen PSAs on TikTok. “So you wear a hat. I see babies outside in the bright sun without a hat on and I think to myself, ‘that frightens me,’ because of what their future may look like.”
She added, “I really enjoy spreading awareness because this type of cancer you can protect yourself and your children at any time and any age from getting it.”