Woman shares warning after mark on face diagnosed as cancerous tumor 2 years later

An Arizona woman speaks openly about her five-year cancer battle to inspire other women to take care of their health.
Alison O'Neill, now 49, said she first noticed a tiny smudge on her cheek in 2017.
"It looked like everything we've all had in our lives, like maybe a blemish forming," O'Neill told Good Morning America. "It was a tiny little spot on my right cheek."
O'Neill said she observed the mark and had it checked out by a dermatologist, who told her it was probably a blocked sebum.
ADVERTISEMENT
As the stain continued to grow over the years, O'Neill said she decided to have it removed.
“At that point I was only thinking about cosmetics. I just thought I'd want to remove it because it was pretty prominent on my right cheek but small," she said. "Never in my wildest dreams did I think it was going to be anything dangerous."
PHOTO: Arizona's Alison O'Neill shows off the small bump on her face that turned out to be cancerous. (Daniel O'Neill)
When O'Neill had the site removed in spring 2020, she said her doctor performed a routine biopsy.
To O'Neill's surprise, the biopsy showed that the tumor was cancerous.
MORE: '80s pop star Taylor Dayne battles colon cancer: 'Be your own warrior'
Additional testing at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona diagnosed O'Neill with angiosarcoma, a cancer that forms in the lining of blood vessels and lymphatic vessels, according to the National Cancer Institute.
"I think every one of us that gets this news is just an absolute shock," O'Neill said. "Because we're going through life, living your life, being busy, and then you get a call that turns everything upside down."
She said of that moment, "When I got that call, the first thought I had was I'm 47 years old and I'm going to die."
Angiosarcoma is a fast-growing cancer so rare that it affects only 1 in 1 million people in the United States each year, according to the National Cancer Institute.
It can appear on any part of the body but is most common in the skin, breast, liver, and spleen. Angiosarcomas often appear on the skin as sometimes painful, bruised, purplish areas that get larger over time and can bleed easily, according to the National Cancer Institute.
PHOTO: Arizona's Alison O'Neill shows off the small bump on her face that turned out to be cancerous. (Daniel O'Neill)
Shortly after O'Neill received her diagnosis, she met with Dr. Brittany Howard, Chair of the Department of Facial Plastic Surgery at Mayo Clinic Arizona.
Howard performed the in-office procedure to remove the tumor from O'Neill's face when they first met.
"Angiosarcoma is a tumor that's very difficult to tell the extent of by looking at a person's skin," said Howard, who was able to remove the tumor while O'Neill was under local anesthesia. "You're really just seeing the tip of the iceberg, that's the cancer."
To ensure all of the cancer was cured, Howard said she had to remove a large area of ​​O'Neill's right cheek.
O'Neill then underwent radiation for six weeks, followed by further surgeries to reconstruct her face.
MORE: Mom discovered breast cancer at 33 thanks to story from Instagram influencer
Reconstructive efforts on O'Neill's face consisted of taking skin from adjacent areas of her face and neck and raising her face with an incision that ran from under her eye to her collarbone and required 100 stitches, according to Howard, who described the procedure as "an extreme form of a facelift."
"The devastation and destruction you see on your face goes against everything we know about taking care of ourselves," O'Neill said. "It's hard to come to terms with letting that happen."
She continued, "Dr. Howard told me at one point I wanted to stop treatment that the human body has amazing healing abilities. I took that and I thought about it every day that this amazing body has amazing healing abilities."
PHOTO: Arizona's Alison O'Neill is pictured after surgery and treatment for a facial cancer. (Daniel O'Neill)
Another part of O'Neill's reconstructive journey was using technologies like lasers and broadband light therapy to restore her skin to its natural color, according to Howard, who treated O'Neill at Mayo Clinic's new multidisciplinary beauty center.
"It's very common for cancer patients to come to us feeling like they should just be happy to be alive, and they tell me they feel vain when they're complaining or worried about a scar that they have or a shape change that they have in their face," Howard said. "But we shouldn't look in the mirror and see a cancer victim."
Describing O'Neill, Howard continued, "She's an amazing survivor, but she shouldn't have to look in the mirror and see a survivor either. She should just look in the mirror and see herself.”
PHOTO: Alison O'Neill is pictured with her husband Daniel O'Neill. (Daniel O'Neill)
O'Neill said she is now in remission from cancer.
She said she hopes her story will motivate other women to take care of their health and speak up when they notice something is wrong with their bodies.
"You have to stand up for yourself when you go through a medical journey," O'Neill said. “I describe the last two years as crawling through mud. It's incredibly difficult to get healthy again and you have to work really, really hard at it."
Woman shares warning after 2 years later facial patch diagnosed as cancerous originally appeared on goodmorningamerica.com

Last News

England fans disappointed over draw with USA

Ex-Prosecutor Says 7 Words Should Disqualify Mike Pence From Holding Office Again

Ex-Prosecutor Says 7 Words Should Disqualify Mike Pence From Holding Office Again

Putin requires increased production for war although plants already working several shifts

Putin requires increased production for war although plants already working several shifts

Just like Richard Fierro in Colorado Springs, data shows that 64 unarmed civilians have apprehended the gunman in mass shootings since 2000