After losing her nose to cancer, Becky shares her story to help others

Bewitched, bothered and bewildered am I… Becky Thomson has spent most of her life loving music. But with the high notes, come the low, and for the past fifty years, Becky has also been battling what she calls various cancer skirmishes. Her breast cancer led to a mastectomy and then, numerous surgeries to remove recurrent sking cancer from her face. And when I went to Sunnybrook and my nose was removed I was told they would continue to excise until they got clean edges. Again, I didn’t know how much of my face would be left. Sometimes it’s not the decision that you’d like to make, but if it can improve your health, you have to take a chance. The surgery left Becky with a different face, and in a different place in her cancer journey. It changes your whole appearance, and no one knows what to do for you, including yourself at first. But Becky did find help, and hope, here, at Sunnybrook’s Craniofacial Prostethic Unit. One of only two dedicated hospital centres in Canada, this multidisciplinary team of highly trained experts meticulously rebuild ears, noses, cheeks, foreheads and eye sockets. The sum of these parts being an identity that patients can then carry on with says Clinical Anaplastologist David Morrison. Everyone sees our patients walking in. They’re all sitting out there in the atrium between appointments, bandages and plasters on their faces. And everyone sees them out there and they all see them walking in. But nobody sees them leave when they’re done. That’s testiment to the work Morrison does with fellow Anaplastologist Todd Kubon. The first thing we do is plan for where the implants are going to go.. Each prosthesis can take up to two weeks to complete. After initial impressions of the defect site are made, a wax prosthesis is sculpted. Then, this creates the silicone prosthesis that will be fitted to the patient, and it’s entirely custom colour matched to the patient’s complexion. No detail is overlooked so in the end, the prosthesis has all the same blemishes, freckles and moles as the rest of the patient’s face. They’re not like special effects pieces, most people think they are. Special effects are beautiful, of course, but they only last a day. Ours are designed to last two years at least. Often, things like reading glasses and facial hair are used to help disguise where the silicone blends in to the rest of the skin. Becky initially had to glue her prosthetic nose on using a medical grade adhesive, but eventually had surgery to insert titanium studs for a more permanent fit. I like to brag about how great the guys are so are you ready for this, show and tell, bring and brag? There we are. See this is my little railroad here, my titanium studs. It’s an option for some patients, but Kubon says, the decision on whether or not to even get a prosthesis is an individual one. Every year, between 50 to 70 patients come through the doors of this clinic. While the numbers are small, Kubon says the impact is huge. They can go out in public and feel comfortable about themselves and not worry that they’re being looked at. But ultimately, the main goal is we want to get the patient comfortable with the way they are without the prosthesis because that’s the way they’re be really truly comfortable with themselves. Since 1989, Becky has been a volunteer with AboutFace, an organization founded to support people with facial differences. By sharing her story, she hopes to help others like her. You have to have some sort of belief in yourself and belief in finding a good medical team is part of the the biggest concern. And I talk about Sunnybrook all the time, about it being in a desert of cancer my oasis. This is the nice one, this is your Sunday one, this is really nice… With Sunnyview, I’m Monica Matys.

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