After 'Cold Sore' Turns Out to Be Cancer, Woman Urges Others to Be Proactive


Editor’s note: This post contains graphic post-operative photos.

“If it starts to grow, it’s got to go.” That’s the saying of 36-year-old Australian makeup artist and pole dancer extraordinaire Prudence “Pruzy” Chamberlain, who throughout the years, has had several run-ins with skin cancer. Her most recent experience was with a squamous cell carcinoma that left her hand in stitches.

Chamberlain’s first experience with cancer began in her early 20s. Chamberlain was born with a rare kidney disease and has had two kidney transplants, lowering her immune system and greatly increasing her chances of developing skin cancer.

Pruzy Chamberlain selfie

Ten years ago, she had her first experience with basal cell carcinoma, growths that form on the outer layer of the skin and look like sores or red patches.

“The most major one was on my top lip,” Chamberlain told The Mighty. “It had been there for two years and looked like a cold sore and it was extremely painful. It would crack and bleed, and would get itchy and start to burn.”

Pruzy Chamberlain Mole

For years, Chamberlain kept telling her general practitioner and dermatologist she was concerned about it, but she was told it was only a cold sore. She tried everything they told her to do, including using cream, Vaseline and antibiotics, but nothing worked.

After being told it was a cold sore one too many times, she demanded to see the head dermatologist.

“The head dermatologist took one look at my lip and confirmed what I’d been trying to tell everyone for the last two years: it was a skin cancer.”

By the time Chamberlain was told she should have surgery, her cancer had become too big for them to simply sew up after surgery. They would have to take part of her chin and flip it up to replace the cancerous skin that was removed. She would have to have her mouth sewn shut for three weeks to heal.

Pruzy Chamberlain lip closeup

“It was such a mess and so painful,” she said. “I was so mad no one had listened to me when I said something was wrong. To this day, I hate my lips and the scar that’s been left.”

After that experience, as soon as Chamberlain saw a lump on her hand, she knew exactly what it was because it had grown bigger within a six-week time period.

She walked into her doctor’s office and said she had squamous cell carcinoma (skin cancer that spreads on the outer layer of the skin) on her hand, and she wanted it gone.

“I’m very lucky with that now. If I need something removed, it gets done,” she added.

Pruzy Chamberlain stitches

Pruzy Chamberlain skin cancer hand stitches

Pruzy Chamberlain skin cancer hand stitches 2

Pruzy Chamberlain skin cancer hand healing

All of these experiences, coupled with her no-nonsense attitude, sparked the saying, “If it starts to grow, it’s got to go.”

Although Chamberlain is used to getting various skin cancers removed through treatment every couple of months, she currently cancer-free. Now she’s sharing her story so others won’t have to go through the same thing, because she knows how easy it is for people to think it will never happen to them.

Pruzy Chamberlain in arm sling

“With so many safer alternatives to tanning now, there’s really no excuse to sit in the sun and burn your skin,” she said. “I keep sunscreen in my car, so I’m always reminded to put it on before I go anywhere. Look after your skin and get it checked every six months and always wear sunscreen.”

Chamberlain hasn’t let her experience with skin cancer stop her from being happy. In fact, she’s pretty happy right now. Not only is the Western Australian resident a makeup artist and hair stylist, but she also just started her own business. She even celebrated her 2-year kidney transplant anniversary on September 10.

Pruzy Chamberlain pole dance shot

And then there’s the pole fitness — something she’s been doing for the past two-and-a-half years, at least three or four times a week. It keeps her active and healthy, and she’s met some great people while at it.

Pruzy Chamberlain closeup

Follow Chamberlain’s skin cancer journey on Instagram.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.


Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.


Related to Skin Cancer

Bethenny Frankel Feature

Real Housewife Bethenny Frankel Diagnosed With Basal Cell Carinoma

Earlier today, “Real Housewives of New York City” star Bethenny Frankel confirmed a growth on her face has been diagnosed as skin cancer. Frankel told People she noticed the growth was getting bigger, “I guessed it to be a basal cell carcinoma and had it lanced and removed. The doctor confirmed it is indeed basal cell [...]
Side by Side photos of Dominy before and after skin cancer.

After Ignoring a Cancerous Lump for 11 Years, Woman Shares Photos to Help Others

Editor’s note: This post contains graphic post-operative photos.  Jodie Dominy is a 43-year-old Australian wife and mother of two whose positive outlook, sense of humor and sheer determination helped her beat the odds many times in life. But she never thought her personality would play such a significant role in her life. Not until three [...]
Vector line-art woman with finger on lips for quiet silence

The Skin Cancer No One Talks About: Vulvar Intraepithelial Neoplasia 3

There’s a lot of talk and awareness about skin cancer and how to prevent it. Common knowledge tells us to slop on the sunscreen, stay out of the sun during the late morning/midday hours when the UV rays are at their highest concentration, and to avoid using tanning beds. The personal stories I read about [...]
Marisha Dotson feature image

Marisha Dotson Shares Photo Journey After 'Pimple' Turns Out to Be Skin Cancer

Editor’s note: This post contains graphic post-operative photos. Tennessee native Marisha Dotson has endured more in her 28 years than most people do in a lifetime. Since 2014, she has had over 30 surgeries due to the devastating side-effects of squamous cell carcinoma — the second most common and deadly type of skin cancer. In 2014, Dotson noticed what [...]