I had been diagnosed with two basal cell carcinomas on my nose in November 2020 and I was looking for someone who could help me. I researched nearly every specialist in the southwest and narrowed it down to two options. One of whom was Dr Toby Nelson and so I asked my GP to refer me.
Dr Nelson seemed very well qualified as a surgeon and dermatologist. He specialised in skin cancer and offered a whole spectrum of treatment, both surgical and non surgical. Typically surgeons just offer surgery, while cosmetic clinics recommend their products because they can’t do invasive surgery. I wanted a balanced, unbiased opinion from someone that could do it all and who wasn’t motivated by selling me a product or procedure and making money out of me. I thought Dr Nelson represented this balance and being that he predominantly worked for NHS, I knew his practice was not economically driven, even if I had to see him privately.
We chatted for at least 45 minutes on a video link for the first consultation at 7pm on a Friday night, I’m sure this was using up precious family time but I didn’t feel hurried. I asked him everything on my list and questioned him and requestioned him. I was so fearful of surgery on my face, I really didn’t want to go down that path. It was a last resort for me and at that point I wanted to try anything else instead. His experience was such I couldn’t ignore his advice and his logic made sense. Despite not wanting to hear it, he had cast enough doubt in my mind over pursuing other treatments that I no longer wanted to follow them up. I decided to proceed with MOHs micrographic surgery so I asked if he could please add me to his waiting list.
That was a big decision made in haste as I hardly knew him and I had no recommendation to see him. I questioned if I was settling for any old person that could offer me an appointment in these Covid times? No, I was not, I liked him and felt I could trust him. The person I chose was something I could control. Whoever I chose, I knew I was going to place the future of my face, my life really, in their hands- literally. I cancelled the appointment with the Italian plastic surgeon in Bristol.
The two stage operation was complex and carried out on 19 January 2021 and 9 February 2021. It was a completely horrific experience, and I’d go so far to say it was the worst thing I’ve ever been through in my life, especially because I had to be awake during the procedures. I am still healing but the cancer has gone and I can see the cosmetic result will be better than I hoped.
Reflecting back, I had been looked after so well by Dr Nelson’s team. All of them. I couldn’t have dreamt of meeting a nicer group of people. Nothing was ever too much of a problem. I’d get my dressings changed twice a week and I always saw a registrar or consultant to check me over on every change. How amazing was that? At every stage, I was encouraged to make contact if I ever had any worries or concerns and I felt comfortable enough that I could too. The team of people I met were warm, friendly and happy and it was nice to be around them. This made what was a pretty daunting experience a whole lot better to deal with. I really felt that I was in good hands when I walked into Rowan House and by the end, those glass sliding doors no longer represented a place of fear and horror but a place of help and healing.
Although this experience has been really frightening and the worry of what may or may not happen took my ability to cope to the brink, I look back on it all feeling that I was very fortunate to have placed my trust in a brilliant team of people.