Skin cancer survivor shares her story to help spread awareness

Published: May. 10, 2017 at 8:35 AM EDT
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Tuesday, May 9, 2017 / News 12 NBC 26 This Morning

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month.

With summer here, it's a good time to remind people about the dangers of skin cancer.

"It was me being vain, wanted to get my toes done, you know," said Mary-Anne Carter. She never thought a potential trip to the nail salon would start a scary journey

"You always hear the stories of when people hear 'cancer' it just kind of fades out. I heard 'cancer' and everything kind of faded out," Carter said.

It started with a dark toenail bed, so before going to get that pedicure, she first went to a podiatrist.

"The next week, I get a call from the podiatrist, he says, you have skin cancer."

Her world changed.

"Skin cancer? of all the cancers, that is one that I would have never thought of," Carter said. "I'm black, I don't lay out in the tanning beds, I mean, I go to the beach or whatever, but I put sunscreen on. It's something I wouldn't think about."

But for Dr. Jigarkumar Parikh with the Georgia Cancer Center, this isn't news

"People always think that this is a cancer that is most common in the white population, but it's actually not uncommon in African-Americans as well," Dr. Parikh said.

He also says getting it in the toenail is also not uncommon.

"It can happen in the places that you might not be able to see right away," he said.

Because they caught it early in Carter, she wouldn't have to have chemo, but she would have to have a partial toe amputation

"Toe amputation? Like wait a minute? Surgery?" Carter said. "They removed my lymphnodes in my groin and waited two weeks, got my results back that I was cancer free."

Two months later she was walking in the annual Miles for Melanoma.

There she realized just how lucky (or she would say 'blessed') she truly was.

"I remember this lady asked me who I was walking for, and I said 'Myself.' And she said 'Wow! You're a survivor,' I said 'Yes, ma'am,"' Carter said. "She said 'I'm walking for my daughter, and she passed away in December of 2013.' I was like 'Oh, I'm so sorry.' She was only 26. Young."

That conversation changed her entire mindset.

" I had a hard time wearing open-toed shoes initially, but then I realized, this is my testimony, I'm still here, still alive," she said.

A testimony she now shares proudly.

"I am thankful that the only thing that I have is a partial toe amputation," she said. "Definitely don't get a discount for 9 1/2 toes, they still charge me full price at the nail salon."