Cutaneous Squamous Cell Carcinoma: A Survivor Story

Once we have survived cancer, we often find ourselves wondering how we can give back to the community that supported us. By sharing our nonmelanoma skin cancer survivor stories, we can bring comfort, support, and inspiration to those who have been diagnosed with cancers similar to our own. The importance of our stories is evident in their offers of hope during the darkness of a cancer diagnosis.

One such story is that of 71-year old Wayne Dyke of Gander, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada.

Wayne Dyke
Date of Diagnosis: 2010
Age: 71
Gander, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada
Squamous Cell Skin Cancer, High Risk

I have had five biopsies diagnosed as squamous cell carcinoma. In fact, I have Muir-Torre syndrome, a form of Lynch syndrome, which makes me susceptible to both skin cancer and internal cancers. Because I have these syndromes, it is quite possible for me to get diagnosed with cancer again. I have regular checkups with my dermatologist every six months and skin checkups with my family doctor every time I go into his office. He uses liquid nitrogen to spray any spots he thinks may turn into squamous cell carcinoma or any other type of skin cancer.

The most serious skin cancer that I have had was on the side of my nose, and my dermatologist gave me three treatment options: radiation, surgery with a skin graft, or Mohs surgery. He told me that radiation could disfigure my face (I did not want to be disfigured even though I know I am not the best-looking guy on the face of the Earth), and surgery with a skin graft could lead to the cancer returning.

Mohs surgery entails cutting the cancer out and sending it to pathology right away. If they find any cancer cells in the margins of the biopsy, they do the procedure again, and the process continues until there are no cancer cells left. I could not get it done in my own Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador, so I would have to go to Fredericton, New Brunswick. Because of an appointment backup in New Brunswick, I could get an appointment in Toronto, Ontario instead. I told the doctor to set up the Mohs surgery. I was happy to get it done because the cancer, like other skin cancers I have had, was growing very quickly. I was very fortunate in that I only had to have one round of cutting during the procedure.

Skin cancer is not the only cancer I have had. I have had cancer on the ascending and descending sides of my large intestine as well as prostate cancer. Cancer has been, and still is, a major part of my family history. Both my father and sister have passed away from it, my brother has had cancer twice, and I have lost countless family members from it. However, many have experienced cancer and survived, including my wife who had breast cancer.

What advice can I give? I would suggest that you take your own health seriously. Be the person who does the self-examination, wear sunscreen, and eat healthy. Your body is yours, and it is hard to get spare parts.