This story isn’t for the squeamish.
Warning: GRAPHIC photos ahead.
It’s also not for you to judge me or tear into me. We all have our own walks to walk in life. We make decisions based on our previous experiences in life.
This was a decision that unfortunately went quite badly for me.
And it’s not the easiest story for me to tell. But here goes.
This is my story:
In 2012 I found out I had basal cell cancer on my nose tip.
I have come a long way since the day I Googled “basal cell nose” and consequently freaked out at the images I saw.
But that Google search is what caused me to start looking to see if there were cure alternatives to the Moh’s cancer surgery my dermatologist suggested.
I took an alternate route. And a loooooooong hard road it turned out to be. It’s also not a story I’d wish upon anyone.
I’m telling this to help others not make the same mistake I made when it comes to treating skin cancer.
I’m sure there will be comments from ‘knowing’ pro-natural remedy users if they find this blog.
Heck, I STILL have mixed emotions about the stuff I used.
But today, I don’t fall in line anymore with the conspiracy theory that big pharma is using chemo and drugs to keep people sick and that they don’t want to find a cure for cancer.
Even if the cures work, there can be dangers in using alternative medicines without being under a practitioner’s care.
I did pretty much did subscribe to the big pharma conspiracy idea during the time I was researching natural cures for cancer.
Ugh. This is even hard for me to type.
I feel like there are so many stories and ‘points’ to make here. It’s hard to pin down that this is about.
At its most basic, this is my horrific, yet intriguing story about my basal cancer nose journey.
It’s about what my thoughts were on it, how the internet did NOT do me any favors, and the unfortunate steps I took thereafter.
Years later, I shared my story on TV for the world to see.
Let’s start from the beginning.
First Basal Cell Cancer Diagnosis
I had a previous basal cell diagnosis prior to my nose basal cell diagnosis. This was back in maybe 2011?
It started with a spot on my upper lip. It seeped a little blood when I washed my face, on and off for a long time.
It finally concerned me enough to get it checked out. Long story short, it was a basal cell.
He was VERY good. Bedside manner, professionalism, sensitivity, all of it. He did a great job. I have minimal scarring. Only I notice it, really.
Still, the procedure and the aftermath were no fun.
Ugh, still gross. But I got through it. No biggie, but no, it wasn’t fun.
Also, it was scary not knowing how the surgery/scar would affect my face.
Basal Cell Diagnosis #2
About a year later, I had another basal cell diagnosis. THIS time, it was ON MY NOSE.
The nose lies the middle of the face. (For those of you who weren’t aware.)
Armed with the knowledge of what they do during Moh’s surgery (keep cutting out tissue until the borders are clean), I was afraid of Moh’s disfiguring my nose from the amount of tissue they might have to remove.
What does one do when confronted with such a scary idea? Naturally (and you know you would, too), one turns to the internet.
I wanted to see what ‘Moh’s surgery nose” looked like. Were people left with holes or big dips in their noses?
Turns out, YES. What I found would scare any human with eyeballs. It was AWFUL.
It would scare the tar out of anyone who wasn’t familiar with any of this.
Here are a few photos typical of the ones I saw back in 2012. These are reconstructive surgeries needed to cover holes in noses, no matter the cause.
I remember vividly thinking that it looked like they had a penis on their nose.
Ugh. Ugh, Ugh, Ugh. You basically look like a freak with this forehead flap thing going on.
But hey, you also look like a freak with a hole in your nose. Either way, something had to be done.
The Search For A Natural Cancer Cure
I DEFINITELY did not want the surgery. I wondered if there were any natural or alternative cures for cancer.
So I looked.
And shockingly, I found out that there were. A lot of them.
I was floored. I found Gerson.org, which was the most substantiated thing I found at the time.
But I just had a little skin cancer. Wasn’t flying to Mexico or Europe for that.
One other thing I found widely used was something called Black Salve, or Cansema.
The Black Salve/Cansema Cure
While doing my research, I ran across an article by a guy named Bill O’Leary. He lived in Australia.
He had a little basal cell right on the tip of his nose. It looked JUST like mine did. Just look:
He used black salve to treat it. He took photos of every day and wrote about the experience in FULL DETAIL.
Because he did photos, wrote about the entire thing, AND somehow his damn nose hole even freaking filled right back in, I WAS SOLD.
I’d much prefer this method over having a hole cut in my nose and worse, having to have the reconstructive (forehead flap) surgery.
I don’t think I would have tried it without his photo and diary-style example. Here are a few photos of his process:
I also read dozens and dozens of other testimonials from people who used the stuff with total success.
I thought I had covered my bases.
Well folks, as you may have already guessed, Bill’s story is NOT how my story went.
Black Salve Application
The part that may have sucked the most about this whole ordeal was this: In my body and mind, I TRULY believed this was ABSOLUTELY the right thing to do.
It felt so right. I KNEW it was right.
So I went ‘with my gut’.
The stuff is not legal in the USA. (Go figure) But that didn’t deter me from wanting to get around ‘the system’.
Much of what I read back in 2012 led me to believe that US regulations (big pharma) were just trying to stop access to natural remedies because they didn’t make any $$ from them.
So I went ahead and ordered it from Alpha Omega Labs.
Theory on the stuff is that it won’t harm ‘normal’ skin. And it didn’t.
I tried it on various parts of my body. It did nothing. (You feel it working on abnormal skin right away)
(However, it DID react to almost every spot on my face. I did little quick test spots. This lead me to believe I had pre-cancerous cells on my entire face. Maybe I did.)
So that definitely told me that the stuff doesn’t just ‘burn skin’. Normal skin had zero reaction. I felt good to go.
With strong pain meds on hand, on September 21, 2012, I applied it to the end of my nose, much like Bill had. It started stinging right away.
Oh, I also applied some to my forehead, totally ignoring the fact that directions say to ONLY apply to one spot. And in a small amount.
Instead, here’s what I did:
You think I didn’t have MASSIVE regret for not following the directions? That I didn’t shame the crap out of myself for doing this? Think again.
(I internally carried plenty of shame and guilt for this. It went on for quite some time. So just hold off on bashing or judging me for this mistake if that’s what you’re doing/thinking.)
You’re supposed to leave it on for 24 hours, which I did, letting it kill the cancer cells.
(The science is that the salve allows your immune system to identify and attack the cancer cells. So it’s not the salve that does the destruction, it’s your immune system. That’s what I’ve read, anyway.)
Here’s the thing. My nose definitely reacted. However, unlike Bill’s nose, every part that the salve touched on my nose reacted. I didn’t know this until I removed it.
Even after I removed it, I just thought ‘dang, my whole nose tip was cancerous’.
There was no going back at that point anyway.
Next day, I removed the salve as the directions specified. Here’s what it looked like:
The eschar is expected to fall out. Within a month if I remember right.
And it did.
Because the internet is an asshole, I am not posting photos of the aftermath here.
Because some a-hole user out there will find some non-helpful way to use my photos for shock value.
I just don’t feel like sharing it in this post. And you really don’t want to see it.
(Well, maybe you do, you sick bastards. I would. 😂)
Let’s just say I had 4 holes in my nose.
‘Cause I did.
The Plastic Surger(ies) Fix
In the end, the very thing I was trying to avoid is the thing I ended up getting. (Giant hole in my nose + Surgeries)
I’ll never know if the cancer was deep enough for me to have needed reconstructive surgery had I done the Moh’s surgery.
What DID happen is that my insurance company at the time (United Health) did NOT consider surgery to repair/replace my nose was something they should pay for.
I fought it and fought it, but they wouldn’t relent.
Talk about adding insult to injury.
I went to the #1 doctor in the world who did reconstructive surgery on noses at the time. I had to have three reconstructive surgeries.
Each a month apart. In Chicago, Illinois.
I could have elected for a fourth revision to tweak it, but by the third surgery, I had lost all confidence in that doctor. It’s (another) long story.
Besides, I used up all of my savings on the first three surgeries.
His secretary ALSO pretty much assured me that my insurance company WOULD cover a good portion of the costs.
This is not how it turned out. God, what a shit show the WHOLE THING was.
I think in the end, I ended up paying between $20,000- $25,000 in doctor fees, hotel, flights, etc. My mom helped me with hotel and flight fees as I recall.
Some very generous clients of mine (Erica and Andrew) let me use their air miles for at least one of the flights. Thank god. Every little bit helped.
The surgeries (3 total) involved using ear and rib cartilage to reconstruct the tip, plus the forehead flap for new skin to make the new nose.
It was no walk in the park, but I got through it. People have gone through much worse.
Third Forehead Flap Surgery
This was to be my last, where he disconnects the ‘pedicle’ (penis) from my forehead and nose. So I finally look relatively normal. With a new nose tip.
He said my forehead was the tightest he’d ever worked on. (I suppose from the skin that was scarred from the black salve) Therefore, he couldn’t close the wound.
I left the hospital with a gaping wound on my forehead that would turn into a scar.
I still have the giant scar on my forehead.
At my last post-op visit, the Dr. suggested inserting inflatable ‘balloons’ under the left and right side of my forehead with 6 months of inflating them to stretch the skin.
Um, no thanks. Been through enough.
Didn’t want to feel like I had had a penis on nose AND mickey mouse ears. Or I’d look worse than this cat.
So that was that. It wasn’t a good looking nose. But I looked ‘normal’.
I lived with that nose from 2012 until the very end of 2017.
Here’s what it looked like in December of 2017.
How Did I Get Through It?
When you’re in it, you’re in it. Getting upset about it wasn’t going to help. It probably would have just hurt me more.
I accepted reality as it was, for what it was. (Before the reconstruction and during.) Just thank GOD this happened in a day and age where a total reconstruction WAS POSSIBLE.
If this happened ?x? number of years ago, I would still be walking around with no nose tip.
So I am SO thankful for technology. It’s really amazing what surgeons can do now. Freaking incredible.
Bad as my first ‘new’ nose looked, hell, I still had a new nose and looked normal!
Freaking astounding. (Hey, I am still TOTALLY amazed by the telephone)
I figured if I one day had excess $$ to play with I might get it fixed. Meantime, I was happy enough. I had a nose.
The Fateful Phone Call That Got Me On The Boob Tube
My mom called me one day in mid-2017. She was all excited, asking me if I had seen this certain medical reconstruction show on a major television network.
It rhymes with ‘Notched’.
I had seen it. And I LOVED the show.
She asked, “Did you know they are looking for people to be on the show??”
Eh. They wouldn’t want me.
I knew what they were usually looking for (I’d seen the latest promotions for it and they were looking for cases that other doctors couldn’t fix or something like that)
On top of it, they often had ‘freaks’ on the show. People who had done crazy stuff to themselves. I forgot that they usually used these for shock value and turned them down.
Furthermore, I hadn’t felt like talking about it for quite some time. Now I would have to choose whether to tell the whole world my story.
WITHOUT knowing what kind of light they would put me in.
I hadn’t told ANYONE I new in RV life why I had an Eagle Beak.
I was simply over it. The guilt. The shame. The embarrassment.
The fact that I still somewhat believed in the stuff I used that caused the entire debacle. That conflict was exhausting.
So at first, I wrote off contacting the show. But shortly thereafter I said to myself, ‘what the heck’. I had nothing to lose.
And maybe someone can learn from my mistake and NOT make the same one.
Screw It. Let’s Do This!
So I wrote the show.
And they wrote me back.
I submitted more photos and more story as asked.
And then they asked me for a video call.
Then they wanted me to come to Beverly Hills to get a physical, take a mental health type of exam, and see the doctor so he could verify if my case was something he could take on.
So I did.
After that, I was officially in!
Everything starts with a thought, people. ‘Maybe I can get my nose fixed on the show’.
It’s really the most amazing fact of life.
Next thing I knew, I was on my way back to Los Angeles with my trailer. And my mom met me there.
They needed to get pre-surgery footage. They wanted my RV and all.
This is when the ‘Great Panicked RV Makeover” of 2017 started, lol.
(I asked and they said they probably would film some of the insides of my RV.)
They kept my lifestyle very genuine (which made me happy), as being a nomad was part of the ‘draw’ about my story.
Filming commenced. Then a few weeks later, I headed there again for surgery.
I parked my home in storage and drove back to Beverly Hills.
It was going to be fixed!!!
(TOTALLY free surgery for me. By one of the best nose dudes in the business.)
So in December of 2017, a couple weeks before Christmas, I was to have the surgery.
My mom and sister came to be with me. I had to have a ‘handler’. It was nice to have them both there.
The Nose Shaving Hilarity
The night before the surgery, the show wanted a video of me shaving my nose.
(Cause, remember, it grows HAIR. Like the top of your head hair. ‘Cause that’s where it came from.)
I was horrified. I didn’t want to show this on national TV. But they said I had to do it.
Sucked, cause I didn’t know how they were going to use it on the show. But in the end, they didn’t use it. (Whew)
The outtakes were FUNNY. I had never shaved my nose in front of anyone.
And while my sister videoed it, none of us could handle it.
It took about 8 takes to get it done without someone laughing.
So I will show it here because funny is good.
That evening was a good de-stressor, to say the least.
The Big Day
It was time. We left the hotel in an Uber that the company called for us (They took care of EVERYTHING).
We did a little filming first, then headed to the surgery center.
The results were AMAZING!
He did such a phenomenal job…
Turned out, he had to reconstruct THE WHOLE thing. Took out all of the old ear and rib cartilage, and reconstructed the ‘structure’ of the tip using new rib cartilage.
Thank goodness the old (new) nose skin took.
There was a decent possibility that it WOULDN’T, and I would have to undergo the forehead flap surgeries all over again to harvest new skin.
Apparently, from my other surgery, I had a SEVERELY deviated septum. I was completely unaware of this.
I thought I couldn’t breathe because my airway was so narrow on the left side.
One of the best side effects of the surgery was that my ‘allergies’ went away! I could breathe again, and it stopped waking me up at night.
It was a damn MIRACLE.
Honestly, that was the best part of it all! But yes, I can now say my new nose looks SO much better. No more Eagle Beak.
They kept me in a hotel there in Beverly Hills for almost a month. Over Christmas, too.
This was because of the high-risk nature of my surgery- the fear of the nose skin dying. Gross. Very happily, it didn’t.
The Girls were happy to have me back ‘home’.
While In Rome…
Being in Bev Hills so long, one must try to see some stars, right?
For me, I wanted to go to SUR restaurant, filming location of my super guilty pleasure ‘Vanderpump Rules’.
It paid off- I got to see Lisa Vanderpump! SQUEEEEEE!
Oh, then the second time I went there, Lance Bass from NSYNC was sitting right next to us.
I didn’t want to bother him by asking for a photo so I took a ‘stealth’ photo of the people who DID ask him for a photo. LOL
Anyway, while I was there, we also did post-surgery filming. Plenty of it.
Oh, ALSO, since we were in Bev Hills, with the best plastic surgeons in the world all around, my mom decided to have a blepharoplasty there.
She was going to do it in Destin, Fl, but I was like ‘um, do it HERE, duh!’.
The best doctors are all here.
So she did! (When in Rome!)
She looks FANTASTIC today!
I can’t currently find a photo of her. So here.
So anyway, my new nose RULES!!!
See for yourself- here’s the day and moment right after they finally took the bandage off:
Side note: I am a badass with a curling iron. AMIRIGHT?
I did my own hair and makeup for the entirety of the filming except for the reveal scene and the ‘after’ video compared to the ‘before’ video.
Oh, they also tattooed my forehead so my scar up there wasn’t as visible.
I didn’t know that tattooing a scar was a thing. INCREDIBLE!
So yeah, you can catch my story online now. I suppose I will link to it here.
Eh, if you want to watch it, just search for it on Youtube.
The show REALLY wanted there to be a tie-in between my ugly nose and me hitting the road.
And they kind of did make it sound like I did ‘run away’ because of my nose with their editing.
DON’T MAKE ME LAUGH!! LOL. Wait, it’s been almost 2 years since the surgery. Gee, I wonder what’s still ‘keeping’ me on the road?
So, I had to go back again in January for the ‘reveal’ scene.
They wanted some of my RVing friends to be there for the reveal, so I invited this crew:
Mom and sister came back out again, but I barely got to see them which was a bummer.
We all had fun, and the reveal was done with our RVs on the beach at dusk.
It was a super cool, fun experience for sure.
I told you in previous posts that I would tell you what happened. This was it.
It was a lot to tell.
I hope it keeps someone else from making the same mistake I did.
Would I ever use Black Salve again? Actually, I might.
Like on my ARM. I’ve seen it work on other people. I just would VERY much use it sparingly and carefully.
And someplace that wasn’t so cosmetically fragile.
That’s my story.
The Frickin’ End.