Survivor Stories

Lisa Kimbell, Stage III

Date of Diagnosis: 06/05/2018

I was a model and actress for years and I was also a licensed aesthetician (skin specialist) from there I went on to become a fashion magazine editor. My appearance was always front and center with my career. I had a small beauty mark (mole) on my cheek just under my eye that was the size of a small ballpoint pen head. One day it started itching and there seemed to be a tan shadow forming around it. I thought it was just sun damage and so, I started covering it up well with SPF before leaving the house.

About a month later it had really grown darker.

I noticed that it started to have a raised appearance and while eating dinner one night my husband looked at me and said “You need to have that checked out…like soon.” My husband is a cell biologist, so I didn’t take that lightly. My dermatologist took one look at me and said “Oh, yes, we need to biopsy that today’. Two days later I got the call that would change my life forever… The doctor said “Lisa, I have bad news.” I sat down on my kitchen floor, I knew what was coming. He told me that I had a “very aggressive” growing Melanoma and that it was too close to my eye, he did not feel comfortable removing it…I needed a surgical oncologist. He said ‘we have already sent my records and path report to the UTSW medical center in Dallas.”

I was nervous, but it was so small, how bad could it get? They took a piece of tissue the size of a quarter and sent it to the lab. An hour later they came back and gave us the bad news. The Melanoma was growing beneath the surface and this might get dangerous. We have scheduled you for emergency surgery with Dr. James Thornton, the best cancer reconstruction surgeon in Texas. They mentioned I could lose my eye, I felt my body go numb.

He drew a diagram of the cancer’s border, according to the pathology report, which went across my face from my nose all the way back into my hairline and through my bottom eyelid. The surgeon said “There is more cancer, but I promise you I will make you beautiful again. I cried out to my husband “oh my god, they are taking half of my face off!” I became hysterical, and they put me under was over 3 hours.

I woke up and my husband’s eyes were filled with tears. He said “Honey, It will be okay, I love you no matter what. I remember waking up the next day and my entire right side was gone, my bottom eyelid too. They made my new eyelid using tissue from behind my neck. I have had 4 reconstructive surgeries since then. I have come to terms with the fact that I will never look the same again. I have been cancer-free for 3 years.

No one offered me a psychological evaluation following surgery, no therapy or cancer survivor groups to attend. I acquired severe agoraphobia. I became closer to my maker and sought him out daily and became grateful for my life…that it wasn’t worse. I found a trauma therapist for PTSD last year, that wasn’t for me.

I just want you to know that whatever the outcome…you are alive and reading this. Keep talking about it, cry about it, cuss about it and, somehow it just becomes okay.

I am grateful every day.

Lisa Kimbell
Stage III
Prosper, Texas
Date of Diagnosis: 06/05/2018