Chickenpox scar develops into deadly skin cancer 30 years after woman caught the virus


A WOMAN has revealed how her chickenpox scar developed into deadly skin cancer – 30 years after she caught the virus.

Louise Thorell, 32, from Ashington, Northumberland, felt self-conscious about the mark but had no idea it could be anything sinister.

Louise Thorell’s chickenpox scar from when she was five developed into skin cancer 30 years later
MDWfeatures / Louise Thorell
It stared out as a tiny scar which had been on her face since she had chickenpox when she was five
MDWfeatures / Louise Thorell

But in 2018, the scar which she had had on her face since she was five started to change.

Louise said: “It felt tougher, waxier than my normal skin.

“Around that time, I accidentally scratched my scar and after that I had issues.

“It would heal, a scab would form, it would fall off and an open wound would be there until a new scab would form.

“I dealt with it for a few months until I got an infection.

“My under-eye swelled and my wound site got bigger each time it would open and heal again.

“I got two infections in it and an infection in my nose and above my lip too.

“After the first infection I noticed it had changed in appearance. It had tiny little blood vessel veins around it.”

Fearing the worst

Louise, who has a family history of cancer, began searching her symptoms online as she began to fear the worst.

She said: “My nana had melanoma on the left side of her face, pretty much the same place.

“I made an appointment with my doctor and was referred very quickly to the melanoma clinic.”

She needed three surgeries to remove all of the cancer on her cheek between her undereye and nose
MDWfeatures / Louise Thorell
She first noticed the mark change in 2018 when the skin under her eye began to raise up
MDWfeatures / Louise Thorell

A few weeks later, she was shocked to discover she had developed basal cell carcinoma (BCC) – a common type of skin cancer.

Louise said: “I avoid the sun. I have always been ghostly pale. My consultant asked me if I ever use sun beds or sunbathe and then in the same breath he said, ‘oh, I don’t think you do as you’re so pale’.

“He did tell me it did start off as a chickenpox scar and it’s possible I’ve had BCC for years.

“I was told it was rarer for people my age to get BCC as it’s usually pensioners who get it on their face/scalp from prolonged sun exposure.”

[My consultant] did tell me it did start off as a chickenpox scar and it’s possible I’ve had BCC for years


In November, she went in for an operation to remove the cancer but it took docs a further two procedures to get rid of it.

She said: “I was awake for the surgery, just under local anaesthetic. They take some of the cancer cells away.

“Then it’s tested and looked under the microscope to see if there are still cancer cells in a certain section.

What is basal cell carcinoma?

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is sometimes referred to as a rodent ulcer.

The disease affects the outermost layers of cells in the skin.

Around 75 per cent of all skin cancers are BCCs, which are typically slow-growing and almost never spread to other parts of the body.

If treated at an early stage, this form of skin cancer is usually completely cured.

But if they do become more aggressive, BCCs may spread into the deeper layers of the skin and into the bones – which can make treating it more difficult.

Signs of BCCs, include a skin growth that:

  • Looks smooth and pearly
  • Seems waxy
  • Looks like a firm, red lump
  • Sometimes bleeds
  • Develops a scab or crust
  • Never completely heals
  • Is itchy
  • Looks like a flat red spot and is scaly and crusty
  • Develops into a painless ulcer

She had the operation in November 2019 to remove the cancer
MDWfeatures / Louise Thorell
Louise pictured with her relatives when she was a child after getting chickenpox
MDWfeatures / Louise Thorell

“After the first time they took cells away, I was bandaged up and was told to go for lunch and a drink and come back in two hours to see if they got all the cancer first time.

“Unfortunately, they hadn’t. I had to go back in theatre and get more taken off.

“This happened a total of three times. Three times they had to go back on my face and take cells/tumour away.”

It left her visibly scarred so she needed further corrective surgery to reduce the damage.

Despite the ordeal she has suffered, Louise says she feels “lucky” that her diagnosis wasn’t worse.

Growing up, the scar left her feeling self-conscious in public – but she had no idea it would turn out to be more sinister
MDWfeatures / Louise Thorell
Louise after her operation to remove the cancer in November
MDWfeatures / Louise Thorell

She said: “At first I wasn’t expecting the sheer size of my scar to be as big as it is. I did feel awful about how I looked. I tried to joke about it and make fun to lighten my mood.

“This lasted a few weeks. When I started to see it healing, my goodness, my spirits were lifted.

“I just feel lucky and blessed that it wasn’t worse. My face is forever changed but I’m skin cancer free.”


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