25-year-old Marisha Dotson didn’t pay much attention when a red spot emerged on her nose.
Marisha was recovering from pneumonia, shingles and repeated colds so she assumed her skin was breaking out due to her illness.
The ambitious young woman was working two jobs while attending college at the University of Tennessee at the time.
“It looked like a regular pimple, but after it continued to grow I knew it wasn’t a spot”, she explained.
As she didn’t have health insurance, Marisha couldn’t afford a trip to a dermatologist and attended a student health clinic where she was told the spot was an infection.
However, a month later the spot was causing extreme pain so Marisha borrowed money from a friend and used an entire paycheck to cover the cost of the trip to the dermatologist.
The dermatologist ordered a biopsy and Marisha was horrified to learn that the pimple was actually a manifestation of an extremely aggressive “squamous cell carcinoma.”
It took 15 hours of surgery to remove it from Marisha’s face and she was awake for the process.
The young student needed 300 shots of anaesthetic to her face but still felt pain as there were so many nerves and sinuses in that region.
The surgical team had to cut and burn away layers of skin to remove the growth. Over half of her nose, cartilage, lip and nasal tissues were removed during the gruelling operation. After the operation she required a temporary mouthpiece to eat and talk.
"I could feel there was a part of my face missing but when I looked in the mirror I was devastated, I had this huge hole where my nose used to be", she told Cosmopolitan.
Unfortunately, her ordeal wasn’t over and more cancerous spots appeared on her face which also had to be removed.
She also had to undergo further surgery to reconstruct her nose.
Marisha explained: “I had my first skin flap surgery to fix the defect. Cartilage was removed from my ear and the skin from my scalp was flapped down to recreate nasal tissues.
“I have had five other revision surgeries on the skin graft tissue. In October my graft became infected and developed an abscess cavity. I was bedridden a lot and extremely sick for three months. The cavity had to be carefully packed until it healed from the bottom up. This damaged the graft, but hopefully not beyond repair.
“My face is changed forever, and I am no longer the person I was a year ago. I am stronger, but I miss my face and not having to worry about cancer eating at me”, she explained.
The brave young woman then had to face intense radiation treatment to eradicate the cancer for 14 weeks. The treatment was extremely painful and left with her with facial blisters and needing yet another skin graft.
This year, she was finally declared free of cancer but has been left with huge medical bills.
Having been self-reliant from a young age, Marisha, now 28, doesn’t like asking for help but the cost of her medical bills have forced her to start a GoFundMe fundraiser.
Marisha’s mother died when she was sixteen and she has been taking care of herself and her brother ever since.
She explains that she plans to "pay forward the kindness" by working on skin cancer awareness campaign projects. "Skin cancer can happen to young people; it can happen to anyone", she said.
“If my story can bless someone's life, save someone's life, influence someone, or prevent someone from having to go through what I am going through, then this will all be worth it in the end”.
To donate to Marisha’s fundraiser, click here.