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I would rather be alive with a dent in my face than not


AS per usual, Maggie didn't hold back. "Jaysus, what happened to your face?"

"Um . . . I had a biopsy," I replied. "Ah for gawd's sake, not more cancer!" she replied with even less sympathy than usual. Let's hope not.

A couple of weeks ago, as I was applying make-up, I found myself brushing on extra foundation to cover a mark before realising I never had to do that before. The mark was flat but the shape was uneven and jagged, so I took myself off to a dermatologist.

This is the same dermatologist who diagnosed a mole on my leg which seemed to have turned black as having been imbued with the dye from my black opaque tights.

I was mortified at the time, but also thrilled as I had convinced myself that I was dying of melanoma.

This time he took one look at the mark and decided to do a biopsy. As he was writing out my details, he told me that women who have had breast cancer are more prone to melanomas and I should have a skin check-up every two years.

The next day I was in St James's Hospital for the results of my BRCA genetic mutation test. The test is carried out to see if a person has a predisposition to breast and ovarian cancer.

The results were good. However, because of the amount of breast cancer and other cancers in my family tree, the genetic department thinks it's a good idea to be tested for the rarer Li-Fraumeni gene, a hereditary cancer predisposition syndrome that can cause a wide range of cancers.

For a second I thought, 'Do I really want to know all this?'

But I know that information is important for prevention so, in the end, I agreed to another blood test.

"What about your face?" asked Maggie.

"Well," I replied. "If it's just an age spot, I can have it lightened, but it will come back again. If it's cancerous then he'll dig it out."

Maggie looked suitably horrified. "But will it leave a hole?"

The answer is yes, by about half-a-centimetre. But, if I'm honest, appearances don't really come into it when you are talking about cancer.

Like most people I would absolutely rather be alive with a dent in my face than six feet under.

"Don't worry, we'll still love you – even if you look like Quasimodo's mother," Maggie said, patting my arm in what she thought was a comforting gesture.

That was supposed to cheer me up!