A student had her thumb amputated after developing a rare form of skin cancer caused by biting her nails.
Courtney Whithorn, 20, bit her thumb nail off completely in 2014 after she developed the nervous habit when she was bullied at school.
She ‘freaked out’ when her thumb started to turn black but hid it from her friends and family for four years.
However, after she decided to go for the plastic surgery to sort it out, she made the horrifying discovery she had acral lentiginous subungual melanoma.
She said because the location of the cancer in her thumb was unknown, if it showed up in future scans in other parts of her body then “they’re just going to have to keep cutting away until we get a clear result”, she said.
Since her shock diagnosis in July, Courtney had to have four surgeries.
Despite attempts to save her thumb, Courtney’s fourth surgery which took place last week saw the digit completely removed.
Courtney, from the Gold Coast, Australia said, “When I found out that biting my nail off was the cause of the cancer it shattered me. I couldn’t believe it”.
“When you think about it how many kids bite their nails it’s crazy it came to that. I bit the nail off four years ago and I was obviously very self-conscious of how black it was. My hand was just constantly in a fist because I didn’t want anyone to see it not even my parents. I got a bit freaked out when my skin started to go black so I showed it for the first time this year. I always had fake nails to hide it because it was so black”, she added.
As she recalled her ordeal with the doctors, she said, “I went to the doctors because my skin started turning black but I went for cosmetic reasons and I was referred to a plastic surgeon. I saw two plastic surgeons, and they were thinking to remove my nail bed to get rid of the black and then put a skin graft over it so at least it would be skin colour – I was happy with that”.
“But before my first surgery to remove the nail bed, the doctors could tell something was wrong and decided to do a biopsy. They were sent down to Sydney because they couldn’t tell if the biopsy was malignant or benign” she added.
“The result came back uncertain so the surgeons wanted to be safe and remove the whole nail bed and any blackness. They did more tests and the results showed that it was a very rare malignant melanoma, especially for someone my age and at that size. I was obviously very shocked I couldn’t believe it at all”.
After Courtney’s second surgery to remove her nail bed, she had a PET scan to produce a detailed 3D image of the inside of her thumb and no more cancerous cells were found.
But panic arose when just a week after thinking she had it the all cleared, specialists in Sydney told Courtney’s surgeon that the protocol for her form of melanoma is amputation.
The surgeon decided to first perform a third surgery, creating a wider incision in Courtney’s thumb to remove any more malignant cells – but that operation only confirmed the need to amputate.
Part-time receptionist Courtney, who is still recovering from her amputation, said, “The plastic surgeon texted me saying that protocol for this melanoma, because it’s so rare, is amputation. I had a panic attack at work, I just couldn’t breathe”.
“We went and saw a melanoma specialist who also agreed that amputation was protocol because this was such a rare cancer. I went in for a third surgery and the doctor told me that if he saw anything cancerous then he would have to take the whole thumb. I wasn’t scared going in for the amputation surgery – I was more nervous as I’m not a big fan of needles and stuff”, she recalled.
Courtney’s passion for writing is going to be affected a lot now she has had her thumb amputated from above the knuckle. The second year psychology student had to defer her studies at Griffiths University to recover.
Source; Daily mail UK