A woman has revealed how she had to have her nose removed after experiencing pain when she washed her face, with doctors eventually discovering actually that she had a tumour.
Trish Hawley, 42, first noticed an issue in the summer of 2019, when she occasionally felt a pain in her right nostril – the discomfort steadily growing until she was left in unbearable pain.
Doctors initially thought her symptoms were all down to an infection and gave Hawley treatment. However, they later realised it was actually a malignant tumour, first trying to treat it with radiotherapy which didn’t work, meaning they had to go for plan B: removing her nose.
Hawley, a public health inspector from Huntsville, Canada, said: “I’m not a vain person and don’t think much about looks, I knew I wasn’t unattractive but I did think about what this would mean for my identity.
“But I was in so much pain by that point, I just wanted it gone.
“It was so bad when I turned up for the surgery. The doctor looked at it and said ‘The tumour is angry’.
“I asked her if it was to remove my nose, already knowing the answer, she then said yes.
“I began to cry probably for a solid 10 mins and the whole time she consoled me. The anxiety set in shortly after and I was nauseous and dizzy for a week.”
Hawley first started noticing the pain when she washed her face or caught her nose while getting dressed, but after things got worse she went to see a doctor in September 2019.
She was told the pain was the result of a dry nose, and figured it was ‘no big deal’ as she doesn’t smoke, do drugs and doesn’t drink much.
But antibiotics and other treatments failed to resolve the issue, and the pain only continued to worsen.
In January 2019, Hawley was referred to an ear, nose and throat specialist, who was concerned that – while her sinus scan came back normal – found after examination that her nostril seemed to be completely closed and there was also a bump on the inside her nostril.
Believing it was a calcified cyst or blood clot, the doctor told her they would book her in for an appointment to remove it.
Hawley said: “At the appointment, the doctor couldn’t get it to freeze and he ended up doing a biopsy. I remember him saying ‘Wow it’s a tumour’.”
Following more tests, 10 days later the doctor confirmed that she had cancer – news that she ’struggled’ to take in.
“We were going to be starting fertility treatment at the time and he was telling me I needed to talk to them about that, that there might be chemo but definitely radiation, and they might have to remove my nose,” Hawley said.
Within a month, she started six weeks of ‘aggressive’ radiation treatment to try and shrink size of the tumour.
Hawley was then told doctors would have to wait three months to know whether or not it had worked – but within two weeks, her nose started becoming more painful again and eventually she was called in for another biopsy.
The test showed that the radiation had not worked, and that the tumour was growing quickly, meaning the only option left was to remove the nose with a rhinectomy.
Hawley continued: “The tumour grew in a way that he had to take quite a lot on the right side.
“I was expecting a little triangle wound site but ended up with this huge wound site. It took a full year for the wound to heal. It usually takes three to six weeks.”
She added: “It wasn’t until I started wearing just a flat bandage and a mask that wouldn’t stay in place that you could tell I didn’t have a nose and that’s when I noticed more people staring and pointing.
“It took many months before I could feel better in public even though the staring and comments persist to this day.”
In October 2021, Hawley was fitted with a temporary prosthetic nose, which she said has been ‘so amazing’.
“It’s not just about looks but it means I can go out for a walk without being stared at or laughed at, and little things like being able to wear my glasses again,” she said.
Since the surgery, Hawley has been working with a Canadian charity called AboutFace, which supports people with facial differences, and has also been speaking to other patients going through similar experiences at the prosthetic clinic to help them come to terms with what is happening.
She is now doing well, and currently has scans every six months, along with close monitoring to check for any signs of reoccurrence.