What started as a simple cosmetic treatment ended in her worst nightmare.
As she sat in the hospital waiting room, she stared at the small black mark on her nail. The unsightly mark had been there for months, but she hadn’t thought anything of it until now. How on Earth had it come to this?
Melissa Benson was on her way home from work when she found herself pulling over to the side of the road.
She wasn’t quite sure what made her do it, but things hadn’t been great at home and she didn’t want to get into it with her husband after a hard day. So she turned and headed to the salon. If only she’d known it wouldn’t be the relaxing experience she’d hoped for.
When Melissa arrived, she asked to see Sergio, her regular nail technician. But as she expected, her bad luck struck again – he was sick that day.
Lisa Williams – who was new at the salon – offered to step in. Melissa has really hoped to get some things off her chest with Sergio, but she also felt like she needed some pampering, so she sat down with Lisa. But the new technician was making her feel very uncomfortable.
“I’d like a darker color than usual, please,” said Melissa. “I’ve got this black line from when I shut my finger in the door and I’d like to cover it.”
“Right,” replied Lisa, apprehensively. Melissa was getting a weird vibe. Maybe she should just come back when Sergio was feeling better. But Lisa wouldn’t let her go.
“So you said it happened in an accident?” Lisa asked, trying not to worry Melissa as she got to work on her other nails.
“Yes,” Melissa replied, wondering why Lisa was so curious about the mark. She’d already told her what happened. “But it was a while ago now. Is it… something I should be worried about?”
“I’m sure it’s nothing. It could just be a calcium deficiency that’s hindering the nail’s recovery,” offered Lisa, in an attempt to calm down her client who she’d clearly worried. “Impossible,” said Melissa. “My doctor told me I drink too much milk.”
“In that case,” said Lisa reluctantly. “I think there’s something you should hear.”
“I think you should get it checked out by a doctor,” insisted Lisa. Melissa had already had the worst day. What with her marital difficulties and work worries, her anxiety was already brimming over.
This was supposed to be a relaxing visit to the salon to decompress, but now she was more stressed-out than ever. Before she knew it, she’d passed out right there in the salon chair.
As she drifted in and out of consciousness in the ambulance, Melissa tried to make sense of how her day could have ended so badly.
She could hear the paramedics reassuring her that everything would be all right, but she couldn’t help but fixate on what Lisa had been saying about her nail in the salon. Then, everything went black.
Melissa woke up in the hospital. The doctors told her that she’d had a severe panic attack that had caused her to faint.
Before long, Melissa was feeling well enough to get out of bed and check out of the hospital. But before she could leave, the nurse informed her she had a visitor. It was Lisa, and she didn’t come with good news.
Lisa had informed the nurse about Melissa’s black nail and they gave it a look while she was in the bed. And in the nurse’s opinion, it didn’t look good.
After making sure Melissa was comfortable and not at risk of another panic attack, a proper analysis determined that Melissa had cancer. But the really scary thing was what caused it.
Subungual melanoma – “subungual” is the medical term for “under the nail” – is caused by injury or trauma, not by the sun like other visible forms of cancer.
A black line, nail cracking, bleeding, and brittleness can all be signs of this rare type of cancer, which is hard to differentiate from normal nail bruising.
Another Facebook post, written by a nail technician named Jean Skinner, described a similar story: “I had a walk-in nail client a couple of weeks ago. She had been going to the “NAILS” type salons for years.
“She had a straight dark vertical stripe down her nail. She said as soon as she sat down I need a color dark enough to cover this stripe.”
“The nail salons “diagnosed” her a few different ways, Jean continued. “Some said it was a lack of calcium. Some said it was hereditary.”
“At least one had told her it was a blood blister. This is melanoma!!! I did not want to frighten her but I told her she needed to see her doctor immediately!”
“She called me today to tell me that yes it was a very aggressive melanoma that has already spread to her lymph nodes!! Her prognosis is not good!” Jean wrote.
“Please pay attention to abnormalities in your nail beds! Odd changes in your nails can very likely be nothing to worry about, but sometimes it is an indication of a very serious disease.”
Jean added: “And please keep an eye on the nail beds—toes and fingers—-of your elderly loved ones and your loved ones that aren’t physically able to notice changes in the nail beds! Early diagnosis can make all the difference in the world!”
Since Jean posted her warning, her post has gone viral.
Jean’s warning was shared more than 1,000 times by concerned Facebook users. It wasn’t long before her viral post reached Dr. Walayat Hussain, a spokesman for the British Association of Dermatologists.
He said that the picture in the post was a “spot-on” illustration of subungual melanoma. He said: “Nail melanoma can occur, it is quite a rare form of melanoma.
“But it is important to realize there are a lot of other causes of that pigmentation but if it is just in one nail that is a sign that something is going on,” Dr. Walayat Hussain added.
“It can be quite common in Afro-Caribbean patients and Asian patients to have much finer lines, but it won’t just be in one nail – if you look closely it will actually be in all their fingernails and their toenails.”
“Certain prescribed medication can also cause this discoloration as well, like blood pressure tablets,” Dr. Hussain continued. “If it is just in one nail though then it is definitely worth getting checked out by a doctor.”
“We have these melanin-producing cells called melanocytes, which the color in your skin, and they can occur anywhere. Melanocytes are present throughout your skin your hair and your nails.”
“It is like having a mole in the nail, it is the same process as a mole anywhere else on the body it just happens to be occurring where the nail sits,” Dr. Hussain concluded.
Always be sure to make yourself and your loved ones aware of these warning signs and make sure you always have any concerns you have about changes in your body checked out by a doctor. So, what about Melissa?
Luckily for Melissa, early detection stopped the cancer from spreading and thanks to Lisa, she was later given the all-clear.
Do you have a dark nail or another anomaly on your body? Don’t panic, just book an appointment with your physician and get yourself checked out as soon as possible – especially if you’re over 50 or have darker skin.