Being Proactive About Skin Cancer

September 12, 2020
Kristie L. Kahl
Kristie L. Kahl

CURE spoke with a patient who was diagnosed with a type of skin cancer, called cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma, about his journey with cancer and why it is important to be proactive about one’s health.

Being proactive about one’s health is a key message this patient wants to share with others.

After working in the sun a lot, Bill had two lesions of cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma appear on his face that were treated with radiation. Shortly thereafter, he found a lump under his right arm and received a stage 4 diagnosis of metastatic cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma. After having been treated with another type of therapy, Bill's recent scans have shown improvement in his disease.

We spoke to Bill about his journey with cancer, how his caregiver and wife Cathie helped him through his diagnosis and treatment, and why it is important to be proactive about one’s health.

CURE: What led to your diagnosis?

Bill: After a walking trip in Portugal, we came back home and I discovered a lump in my right armpit. I was concerned because I couldn't understand why I was so fatigued in Portugal as we were doing this walking trip.

I went to our local doctor immediately and he did an ultrasound and said it was a large lump and referred me to a surgeon. Two weeks later, I went to the surgeon, he did an ultrasound, and he said, “Oh, my goodness, this thing is growing very fast. We need to take it out immediately.” So, within two days, I was in surgery and had the lump removed. And it took about two or three days for them to figure out what it was…But it came back as metastatic cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma, a type of skin cancer that has spread…I went and saw the oncologist.

He told me point blank, “You have stage 4 cutaneous squamous cell cancer…. Surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy are not options. There is a drug on the market that may help you.” My wife and I discussed the benefits and risks of this treatment option with my doctor and determined it was an appropriate treatment for me.

What went through your head when you received that diagnosis?

That was devastating. Thank goodness Cathie was there because she heard more than I could take in at the time. When somebody tells you that you have stage 4 cancer, you think it's all over and there is nothing you can do. Yeah, your head goes blank. It was pretty hard on me at that point.

What would you say is your biggest piece of advice for another individual who's facing this cancer diagnosis?

If you're in treatment, don't give up. Try and stay as positive as possible. It’s so important to not totally give up and have a good caregiver or somebody that will advocate for you, and talk to you and be on your side.

ONC.20.07.0016 08/20