A student was biting her nails so much she had to have her thumb amputated after developing a rare form of skin cancer. Courtney Whithorn, now 20, started the nervous habit after being bullied at school, which led to her biting her thumb nail clean off in 2014.
She didn’t even realise she had bitten her whole thumb nail off until she saw blood on her hand.
Despite ‘freaking out’ when her thumb started to turn black, the embarrassed, then teen, kept it hidden from her family and friends by keeping her hands in a fist and wearing fake nails for four years.
But the psychology student had caused such major trauma to her nail bed that it developed into a rare cancer type named acral lentiginous subungual melanoma.
When I found out that biting my nail off was the cause of the cancer it shattered me.
In my head I thought “I’ve done this to myself” but obviously I knew I shouldn’t have that mentality. I couldn’t believe it.
Since her shock diagnosis in July, Courtney has had to have four surgeries. Despite attempts to save her thumb, Courtney’s fourth surgery which took place last week saw it completely removed.
Courtney is still waiting for the results from her surgery and the surgeon will keep an eye on it for the next five years with regular scans.
She now wants to share her story to raise awareness:
If I could say anything it would be just stand up for yourself absolutely no matter what it takes just stand up for yourself. Some people have asked me who my biggest hero is or biggest influencer is and now I say “me”. Be your own person and be who you need to be.
WHAT IS ACRAL LENTIGINOUS SUBUNGUAL?
Acral lentiginous subungual melanoma is a form of skin cancer that develops on the palms of a person’s hand, the soles of their feet or beneath their nail.
It usually starts as a flat patch of discoloured skin, which can look like a stain, that slowly enlarges over months or years.
Initial treatment usually involves cutting the lesion out. If the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes, these are often also removed.