A SMALL PATCH of dry skin on her right foot was the start of a cancer journey Mary Robertson never imagined could happen to her.
At first, she didn’t think much of it. But when it wouldn't heal, she saw a doctor. After months of uncertainty and tests, she got a terrifying diagnosis: she had squamous cell skin cancer, the most common type of non-melanoma skin cancer. The cancer was so advanced that it had spread below the skin to the cartilage, muscle and bone. Her only hope was to have her leg amputated just below the shin.
"Never in my wildest dreams did I think I'd have to have an amputation," says Mary, 49, from her home in Sutton, Ontario.
Non-melanoma skin cancer is the most common form of cancer among Canadians. Yet it is the most preventable type of cancer. Exposure to UV rays, including those from a tanning bed, is known to increase your risk of developing skin cancer. Mary admits that for more than 10 years she often visited tanning salons several times a week.
Soon after being fitted for a prosthetic on her right leg, cancer was found in her left foot. This time, doctors were able to save her leg – removing only a section of her heel.
"I consider myself lucky because this could’ve turned out very differently for me if it had happened even five or 10 years ago," says Mary. "The progress that's been made in cancer research is incredible."