A dad has described having “half his nose” removed – after severe sunburn as a teenager left him with skin cancer 34 years later.
Mark Oxtoby suffered second degree burns on a school skiing trip when he was 13.
Now 47, Mark wants to share his horrific ordeal as a warning to others.
The actor from Hayes, Kent, has had nasal tissue replaced with skin from his forehead. The procedure was delicate, and Mark’s recovery has been slow and painful.
He recalls leaning over to switch on the shower at one point and feeling an excruciating pain.
“Half of my face just ripped off,” he said.
Mark now has collapsed nostrils and can no longer smell properly.
He first noticed a freckle on his nose had started to grow in 2015, but didn’t get it checked by a doctor until three years later.
He was diagnosed with melanoma, a form of skin cancer that can spread to other organs in the body.
Mark, who lives with wife Dawn, 48, and daughter, Lily, 14, said he should have been more vigilant.
He described how he got sunburnt on the trip to Switzerland all those years ago – and the signs he should have noticed sooner.
“I used the sun cream that was given to us, but it was the eighties so it probably wasn’t as effective,” he said.
“I woke up one day covered in blisters. I was stuck to the pillow.
“I’ve always been freckly and in 2015, I was on stage performing in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. At the end, one of the actors said I had make up on my nose but it was the freckle.
“I didn’t get it checked just because life gets in the way. I ran the London marathon and someone took a photo of me and I could really see how much the freckle had grown.
“Then in 2018, someone else pointed out that I had muck on my nose.
“That’s when I went to get it checked.
“I insisted that they did a biopsy – and thank God I did, or who knows what else I would have lost.
“They removed what they thought was cancerous and a safe zone around it so it’s double the size.
“I lost so much skin on my nose… a skin graft wouldn’t cut it because it would look like patchwork.
“I was spun into a world of not knowing what was going to happen or what I was going to look like.”
Mark underwent four operations to remove the cancerous tissue, and three more procedures to replace it with skin from his forehead.
Mark worried that his scars would ruin his career as an actor, and thought he would have to give up his job.
He said: “I woke up with 35 staples in my head. It was heartbreaking for my wife and daughter to see, but they dealt with it brilliantly.
“The doctors said that after the surgery, I should be able to walk down the road without anyone noticing – which is fine if you’re an office worker but I’m an actor and have to do close up camera shots.
“I didn’t know if they’d removed it all or how I was going to look – or if I would be able to carry on acting.
“I couldn’t leave the house for three months because if the skin gets cold it can die. If the skin died, there wasn’t anything else I could do.”
Mark wants to warn others of the importance of wearing sun protection and the need for regular skin checks.
He said: “I’m living the best life I can now. I’m just really grateful that it was caught when it was.
“I’d rather have my scars than be dead.
“It’s an amazing lesson to just use sun cream – and don’t think it won’t happen to you.”
Mark praised the NHS for their “amazing” efforts. You can visit the NHS website for more information about melanoma.