A 27-year-old mother-of-one who was diagnosed with terminal skin cancer after ignoring a ‘suspicious’ mole for three years has issued a warning to others to get their skin checked before it is too late.
Kassidy Pierson, from Minnesota, has been candidly documenting her battle against melanoma in a series of viral TikToks, where she tearfully revealed the moment that she learned her cancer was terminal, before sharing an image of the mole on her inner thigh that first sparked her battle with the disease.
‘This is what my mole looked like,’ Kassidy said in a recent video, revealing a photo of the large, dark mole on the inside of her leg and explaining that she first began noticing ‘changes’ to it when she was 18.
‘It was bigger than a pencil eraser, it itched, it was dry, it bled when it was itchy, it had all the symptoms,’ she continued. ‘It was discolored, it changed shapes.’
Speaking out: A 27-year-old mother-of-one has revealed she was diagnosed with terminal skin cancer after ignoring a ‘suspicious’ mole for three years, which turned out to be melanoma
Warning: Kassidy Pierson, from Minnesota, has been documenting her cancer journey on TikTok, where she recently shared an image of the cancerous mole found on her inner thigh
Symptoms: Kassidy first noticed changes to her mole at age 18, revealing that it was dry, itchy, and its size, shape, and color had altered – but she didn’t know these were signs of melanoma
However, at the time Kassidy was unaware that these were all symptoms of melanoma, and she was also pregnant with her son and didn’t have health insurance, so she left the mole unchecked for several years, before finally visiting a doctor at the age of 21.
Speaking to Buzzfeed, Kassidy revealed that her doctors took a biopsy of the mole, and two weeks later, she received a diagnosis of stage 3 melanoma – the most dangerous form of skin cancer – which had already spread to her lymph nodes.
‘After two weeks, the dermatologist called me on the phone and told me it was unfortunately skin cancer, and it was melanoma,’ she told the publication.
‘I then asked him what that meant, as I did not know. He told me that there were a few different types of skin cancer. Melanoma was the deadly one, and I had it.’
Kassidy’s first oncologist did not initially pursue any treatment options and one year later, it was discovered that her cancer had further metastasized throughout her entire body – including her brain – thereby upgrading her diagnosis to stage 4.
In light of the devastating news, the mom decided to seek advice from a new doctor – who advised her to immediately begin an aggressive series of treatments, including chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery.
‘It’s been a long journey,’ she said in a recent video. ‘I had a partial hip replacement, I had half of my right lung removed, I’ve had a bowel resection, I’ve done two rounds of chemotherapy, I have done… four or five rounds of different radiation types now.
‘I’ve been on different immunotherapies, clinical trials, drugs. It’s been a very long journey that I have taken, a very, very long journey [with] multiple surgeries. The hip one was one of the hardest and the lung one. And those happened one right after the other.’
Concern: Earlier this year, doctors found seven new tumors on Kassidy’s brain, and told her that there is nothing left they can do for her – advising her to go on end-of-life hospice care
Updates: The mother-of-one is now using her TikTok account to encourage others to get their skin checked at least once a year, urging them not to ignore anything suspicious as she did
Take note: She has regularly shared images and videos of her own tumors so that people can see what they look like – and recognize if they are suffering from something similar
Despite the incredibly aggressive treatment plan, which took place over a six-and-a-half year period, Kassidy received the devastating news earlier this year that her cancer is terminal, after doctors discovered that it had spread to her brain, where she now has ‘seven new tumors’.
‘Six and a half years later, I’m still stage 4 and I’m now terminally ill and on hospice,’ Kassidy shared in the video revealing the image of her mole. ‘So please go get your skin checked.
‘Go and get your skin checked at least yearly. If you see something suspicious, go sooner.’
In July, Kassidy was told that she would be going on end-of-life hospice care, a heartbreaking moment that she documented in a tearful TikTok clip.
‘I will do ten rounds of radiation for ten weeks and then I get put on hospice after that,’ she told her followers, while sobbing into the camera.
‘Unfortunately, as the melanoma has spread throughout my whole body, it has entered my brain with at least seven new tumors, if not more,’ she added to Buzzfeed.
‘Meaning that none of my treatments are working anymore, and unfortunately at this point they have nothing medically they can do. There are no treatments available for me.’
Kassidy does not know how much longer she has left, explaining in another video that she ‘doesn’t have a lot of time’, but isn’t sure whether that means she could live for another few years, or whether it will be a matter of months or even years.
Step by step: Before going on hospice and stopping her treatments, Kassidy underwent numerous aggressive procedures, including chemo, radiation, clinical trials, and surgeries
Heartbreaking: She told her TikTok followers that she doesn’t know how much time she has left, explaining that she ‘isn’t scared to die’ but she is ‘sad’ about the ‘moments’ she will miss
Taking time: The mother-of-one is now determined to spend whatever time she has left in the presence of her loved ones – particularly her son, Hunter, and her fiance Chris
‘I do not know how much time I have left,’ she said. ‘I am on hospice so that means I do not have a lot of time left. I guess generally it probably means within six months I will go.
‘I do not know how long it will take me to go. I don’t know… It’s just whatever the cancer process is, how long it takes the cancer to take over my whole body. I’m guessing I will start to lose motor functions, I won’t be able to speak and that I won’t be able to move.
‘I don’t know how it’s going to go.’
She added: ‘I am not scared to die, I am just sad. It is a very sad thing, for the moments that I will not be there for.’
The mother-of-one is now determined to spend whatever time she has left in the presence of her loved ones – particularly her son, Hunter, and her fiance Chris – and she revealed to Buzzfeed that she is actually in the process of planning her own funeral, describing the experience as ‘fun’.
She has also been preparing letters and gifts to leave to her son, explaining that she wants him to have things that will help him to ‘know who she is’, and to ‘give him a reminder on those special moments that his mommy is always with him’.
Speaking about her decision to share her cancer story on social media, Kassidy said that she wants to raise as much awareness about the deadly risks of melanoma while she still can – adding that she believes terminal illness should be discussed ‘more openly’.
‘We all die some day,’ she said. ‘I have an opportunity to share my death, which many don’t get a chance to do. I am blessed I get to say goodbye to my family, and I want to showcase all the ins and outs. The good and the bad of it all. This isn’t pretty and this isn’t easy. But there are good moments in the bad.’
The most deadly form of skin cancer: What is melanoma and how can you prevent it?
Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer. It happens after the DNA in skin cells is damaged (typically due to harmful UV rays) and then not repaired so it triggers mutations that can form malignant tumors.
Around 106,110 new cases occur every year in the US, with 7,180 Americans expected to die from the disease in 2021 alone, according to Cancer.org.
- Sun exposure: UV and UVB rays from the sun and tanning beds are harmful to the skin
- Moles: The more moles you have, the greater the risk for getting melanoma
- Skin type: Fairer skin has a higher risk for getting melanoma
- Hair color: Red heads are more at risk than others
- Personal history: If you’ve had melanoma once, then you are more likely to get it again
- Family history: If previous relatives have been diagnosed, then that increases your risk
- Removal of the melanoma:
This can be done by removing the entire section of the tumor or by the surgeon removing the skin layer by layer. When a surgeon removes it layer by layer, this helps them figure out exactly where the cancer stops so they don’t have to remove more skin than is necessary.
- Skin grafting:
The patient can decide to use a skin graft if the surgery has left behind discoloration or an indent.
- Immunotherapy, radiation treatment or chemotherapy:
This is needed if the cancer reaches stage III or IV. That means that the cancerous cells have spread to the lymph nodes or other organs in the body.
- Use sunscreen and do not burn
- Avoid tanning outside and in beds
- Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going outside
- Keep newborns out of the sun
- Examine your skin every month
- See your physician every year for a skin exam
Source: Skin Cancer Foundation and American Cancer Society