An Arizona girl is opening up about her five-year most cancers battle to assist encourage different ladies to take cost of their well being.
Alison O’Neill, now 49, stated she first observed a tiny mark on her cheek in 2017.
“It regarded like something all of us have had in our life, like possibly a blemish forming,” O’Neill advised “Good Morning America.” “It was a tiny little mark on my proper cheek.”
O’Neill stated she monitored the mark and had it checked out by a dermatologist, who advised her it was seemingly a clogged oil gland.
Because the spot continued to develop over time, O’Neill stated she determined to have it eliminated.
“At that time, I used to be simply considering beauty. I simply thought I would prefer it eliminated as a result of it was fairly outstanding on my proper cheek, however small,” she stated. “By no means in my wildest goals did I feel it was going to be something harmful.”
When O’Neill had the spot eliminated in spring of 2020, she stated her physician did a routine biopsy.
To O’Neill’s shock, the biopsy confirmed the tumor was cancerous.
Extra testing on the Mayo Clinic in Arizona recognized O’Neill with angiosarcoma, a most cancers that types within the lining of blood vessels and lymph vessels, in line with the Nationwide Most cancers Institute.
“I feel any of us that get that information, it’s simply an absolute shock,” stated O’Neill. “As a result of we’re strolling via life, residing your life, busy, and then you definately get a cellphone name that turns it the other way up.”
She stated of that second, “Once I received that cellphone name, the primary thought I had was I am 47 years of age and I will die.”
Angiosarcoma is a fast-growing most cancers that’s so uncommon it solely impacts 1 in 1 million folks in the USA per yr, in line with the Nationwide Most cancers Institute.
It might probably present up on any a part of the physique however is most typical within the pores and skin, breast, liver and spleen. On the pores and skin, angiosarcomas typically seem as typically painful, bruised, purple-ish areas that develop bigger over time and should bleed simply, in line with the Nationwide Most cancers Institute.
Shortly after O’Neill obtained her prognosis, she met with Dr. Brittany Howard, chair of the division of facial cosmetic surgery at Mayo Clinic Arizona.
Howard carried out the in-office process to take away the tumor from O’Neill’s face at their first assembly.
“Angiosarcoma is a tumor that may be very troublesome to see the extent of it if you take a look at somebody’s pores and skin,” stated Howard, who was capable of take away the tumor whereas O’Neill was underneath native anesthesia. “You’re actually simply seeing the tip of the iceberg that’s the most cancers.”
In an effort to be certain that the entire most cancers was cleared, Howard stated she needed to take away a big space from O’Neill’s proper cheek.
O’Neill then underwent six weeks of radiation, adopted by extra surgical procedure to assist reconstruct her face.
The reconstruction effort on O’Neill’s face included taking pores and skin from adjoining areas of her face and neck and lifting her face up with an incision that ran from beneath her eye to her collarbone, requiring 100 stitches, in line with Howard, who described the process as “an excessive type of a facelift.”
“The devastation and destruction that you just see taking place to your face is counterintuitive to every thing we learn about taking good care of ourselves,” stated O’Neill. “It is onerous to come back to time period with permitting that to occur.”
She continued, “Dr. Howard advised me at a time that I needed to cease remedy, that the human physique has superb talents to heal. I took that and I’ve considered that each single day, that this superb physique has superb talents to heal.”
One other a part of O’Neill’s reconstructive journey has been using expertise like lasers and broadband mild remedy to revive her pores and skin again to its pure shade, in line with Howard, who handled O’Neill at Mayo Clinic’s new Multidisciplinary Beauty Heart.
“It is quite common for most cancers sufferers to come back in and have this sense that they need to simply be comfortable to be alive, and so they inform me they really feel useless for complaining or caring a few scar they’ve, or form change they’ve of their face,” stated Howard. “However we should not look within the mirror and see a most cancers sufferer.”
Describing O’Neill, Howard continued, “She’s a tremendous survivor, however she additionally should not must look within the mirror and see a survivor. She ought to simply get to look within the mirror and see herself.”
O’Neill stated she is now in remission from most cancers.
She stated she hopes her story motivates different ladies to take cost of their well being, and to talk up after they discover one thing off with their physique.
“It’s a must to advocate for your self when going via any medical journey,” stated O’Neill. “I describe the final two years as being like crawling via mud. It’s extremely troublesome to regain your well being and you need to work actually, actually onerous at it.”