pregnancy

Bethany thought the spot on her forehead was caused by her pregnancy. It wasn't.

Warning: this post contains graphic images. 

When Bethany Greenway noticed a dark spot on her forehead during her second pregnancy, she wasn’t too concerned. She thought it might be something to do with pregnancy hormones. Her doctor told her it was a liver spot.

About a year after the birth of Bethany’s daughter Arabella, a painful mole appeared in the centre of the spot.

pregnancy side-effect skin cancer
A skin graft now covers the area. Image provided.

The fair-skinned Greenway, whose mother was diagnosed with melanoma at the same age, had a biopsy performed on the mole. The news was not good. She was told she had “a nasty form of skin cancer called desmoplastic melanoma”. But there was more.

“I found out my entire liver spot is melanoma,” the Texas mum explained in a Facebook photo diary, which she began in August last year. “I thought it was crazy skin pigmentation from hormones that many women get.”

The mole was removed, and she was given a skin graft to cover the area.

“After a chat with the surgeon, I find out that he had to take the underlying muscle because those icky moles burrowed their way down past the skin,” she added. “Not only have I lost my left eyebrow, but I will never be able to raise its replacement. At this point it's a small price to pay to watch my girls grow up.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Greenway went through immunotherapy and 30 rounds of radiation. She found it hard to have to give up breastfeeding her daughter before the treatment began. “Being a nursing mum for so long had me rely on breastfeeding for my own comfort as well,” she posted. “I'm sad that I will no longer have this crutch to lean on during the road ahead.”

pregnancy side-effect skin cancer
Bethany has lost her left eyebrow. Image supplied.

She wrote that the daily radiation treatments were “awful”. “My throat burns like I've been gargling sand mixed with acid and my tongue isn't doing much better. No matter how much I drink nothing takes away the terrible dryness. I've been given things to alleviate my pain. Nothing works for long, but this isn't forever.”

Greenway has kept her photo diary going. She’s found that her relationship with the sun has changed since her cancer diagnosis. She always wore sunscreen, but now goes out with a “massive hat” on.

LISTEN: This Glorious Mess discuss how changing school lunch hours could help protect our kids from sun damage (post continues after audio...)

“My relationship with the sun has become what I would expect how things would be with an abusive ex-boyfriend. Yes, I feel sort of silly with this big-ass hat, but the giant asshole in the sky won't be touching my face again.”

ADVERTISEMENT

She says she never thought she’d become an activist or advocate, but she has.
“I'm glad that I'm inspiring people to wear sunscreen and get yearly skin checks. I'm happy my message has a podium at the moment. Healing.”

pregnancy side-effect skin cancer
Bethany now advocates Sun Smart protection. Image supplied.

The CEO of Cancer Council Australia, Professor Sanchia Aranda, tells Mamamia that skin cancer doesn’t always look like a dark mole. “It can be a coloured spot,” she adds. “So if you notice anything unusual, get it checked out.”

Professor Aranda says two in three Australians will develop some type of skin cancer in their lifetime, so people need to get in the habit of checking their skin.

“Things to look for include new moles, moles or spots that change in appearance or that look different to others. Signs of skin cancer can include changes in the size or colour of a spot, including having a variety of colours. If the outline of a mole or spot becomes notched or it becomes raised or has a lump in it, get it checked out.

“The earlier a skin cancer is detected, the better the chances of successful treatment.”

For more advice on what to look for when checking your skin, go to Cancer Council Australia’s website. For more of Bethany's story, click here.