At age fifteen, Gemma Cottam thought nothing of the mole on the side of her face.
According to her Facebook page, it all started when a “pimple” that had appeared on the side of her face turned into a mole.
“After having it checked by a dermatologist, I was told it was okay but could have it removed if i wanted too, being scared of how she said she would remove it, I quickly declined and forgot about it,” she explains.
Ten years later, the mole had increased drastically in size, so she decided it was time to get it removed.
Shortly after she returned from a vacation where her now fiancé, Paul, proposed to her, she went in to have the mole removed.
The procedure took only twenty minutes, but it took several weeks for the results of the biopsy — which is done whenever moles are removed — to come back.
The results, unfortunately, were devastating.
“He [her doctor] told me there that the mole was cancerous and I had stage two melanoma but because of the size and thickness they had removed the mole but my skin around it still needed to be removed too as there was a 95 percent chance the cancer could be there too or if not quickly develop there.”
Her doctor informed her that she would have to have three centimeters of her skin removed from her face and a biopsy done on her lymph nodes to determine whether the cancer had spread.
Save for a massive scar, her first surgery was a success. But she soon learned more distressing news— the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes and it was now Stage 3.
Gemma underwent another procedure which unfortunately caused nerve damage.
A week after surgery looking and feeling more normal, was so nice getting my scar out in the open
Now she is trying to raise awareness about the dangers of suspicious moles.
“I don’t want to scare anyone by showing the my scars, I want to show them what cancer can do,” she tells Mirror. “It is gruesome but that’s what I had to deal with and I just want to raise awareness that a tiny mole can be cancerous and people shouldn’t ignore them.”
Her scars are difficult to deal with, she says she often gets stares from strangers. But she shows them because she wants to encourage others to get their skin checked.
She now knows that by doing so, it could save a life.