Mum with blocked nostril has nose removed after discovering it was skin cancer

Mum-of-three Julia Davey noticed something was stuck in her nose last April, but she never thought it would be something serious.

But the 40-year-old, from Weymouth, Dorset, actually had an aggressive form of skin cancer, which has meant having her whole nose removed.

Now, as she continues treatment for the skin cancer called squamous cell carcinoma, she is hoping kind strangers will help her fulfil her dream of marrying her partner Nick Stoodley, 44, in November.

Julia, who has two sons, Tom 16, and Joel, 12, from a previous relationship and a daughter, Eleanor, five, with Nick, said: ‘I feel like I’ve had my whole world tipped upside down this past year.

‘At the end of the day, my goal is to be a mum to my children and a wife to Nick. I will do anything to make that happen.

‘Doctors have told us to make the most of the good months ahead before the side-effects of treatment kick in.

‘Nick and I were hoping to get married in 2021, but we’ve decided to bring things forward. It will be an intimate celebration with our nearest and dearest.’

Last April, Julia noticed that her left nostril had been blocked for around two weeks. To be on the safe side, she visited her GP.

‘It felt like there was a big bogey up there that wouldn’t shift,’ she explained. ‘I thought it was a bit odd but wasn’t concerned.’

Told she probably had a nasal polyp – a painless growth in the nose that is not usually serious – Julia was referred to see an ear, nose and throat specialist at Dorset County Hospital, Dorchester.

During her appointment the following month, medics performed a nasal endoscopy – where a thin, flexible tube with a tiny built-in camera is inserted into the nose –which confirmed there was a blockage.

Three weeks later, on June 1, she had a two-hour operation to remove the growth.

But a week later, she received a call asking her to come to the hospital to discuss the results of a biopsy that had been carried out.

She continued: ‘I’m quite naive so when they asked me in, I thought it was just protocol.

‘I was so convinced it was nothing. I didn’t even take Nick along.’

Julia was told that cancerous cells had been found on the nasal septum, meaning her growth was a tumour, not a harmless polyp.

‘It’s hard to describe how it feels hearing the words cancer – it was just utter disbelief,’ she said.

The following month, July 2019, she returned to hospital to have her septum removed, in a bid to eradicate any leftover cancer cells.

‘It sounds like a big procedure, but you can live without a septum,’ she explained.

‘It’s not visible and it was meant to get rid of the cancer. That was all I cared about, getting the cancer gone.’

Sadly, the next month, she felt the same bunged up sensation in her left nostril.

Another nasal endoscopy in September found another tumour, which she had removed later that month, and Julia was told the cancerous cells were a result of squamous cell carcinoma – which, according to the NHS, is the second most common form of skin cancer, with around 29,000 new diagnoses in the UK a year.

Due to the aggressive nature of the cancer, drastic measures needed to be taken.

‘They basically told me the fact that a tumour had grown so quickly after the first growth was removed meant the cancer was incredibly aggressive,’ Julia explained.

‘They told me there was a real possibility they would have to remove my nose.

‘I’m not vain at all but your nose is so prominent. It was just devastating.’

Doctors agreed that, in a bid to save her nose, they would first see how Julia’s body responded to chemotherapy, and she started a six-week course in September.

Enjoying as much family time as possible before starting the treatment, one particular day out with Nick was particularly special.

‘We were on our favourite walk with the dogs on the coast,’ she continued.

‘Halfway through, Nick produced a ring from his back pocket and asked me to marry me.

‘It wasn’t the most extravagant of proposals, but it meant the world to me.’

Sadly, during chemotherapy, Julia’s nose tripled in size and it became apparent the tumour was growing – not shrinking.

With no other choice, Julia had a rhinectomy on November 18, 2019.

In a 14-hour operation at Southampton Hospital, surgeons removed her entire nose and top palate.

For 24 hours after coming round, she remained in intensive care – where she recalled being flooded with relief at no longer being in pain.

While in hospital, Julia learnt how to dress her nasal cavity, and after two weeks, she was allowed home.

She said: ‘There’s a hole where my nose is. There’s no other way to describe it.

‘Only a few people have seen it – including Nick – but I haven’t shown the children. I don’t want them to have nightmares.

‘I told them that Mummy’s had her nose removed to make her better and that’s enough for them.

‘They’re making a prosthetic nose for me based on photographs I’ve provided for a specialist consultant but it’s not quite ready yet.’

Julia was told at the end of December that doctors had successfully removed all traces of the cancer in her nasal cavity.

She then had 30 sessions of gruelling radiotherapy, over six weeks, beginning in January.

But tragically, an MRI scan at the end of April to monitor how she had responded to radiotherapy revealed another tumour had grown in her left maxilla – part of the jaw.

Last month, she was back on the operating table for surgery to remove both the growth and part of her jaw, before a follow-up scan found another tumour – this one too embedded in her cavity to be removed.

‘Like every surgery before, I was happy to get the bad tissue out and move forward,’ she said. ‘But every time, they’d take a little and more would come back.

‘This time, they said if they removed anymore it would do more damage than good.

‘It’s too close to important nerves and my brain. They can’t go near it.’

She is now beginning immunotherapy, a form of treatment that encourages the immune system to attack cancer cells

As yet, Julia has not been given a prognosis, as she must wait to see how her body responds to immunotherapy.

Currently feeling relatively well, she has decided to pull forward her wedding, with the help of her sister, full-time mum-Angela, 35, who has set up a GoFundMe page to help cover costs.

Planning to get hitched in her hometown of Weymouth, in an old manor house, Julia said: ‘I don’t feel comfortable asking people for help, but Angela wouldn’t let up on the idea.

‘Any savings we had have covered the cost of me not working for a year.’

Julia refuses to believe immunotherapy will not work, saying it ‘simply is not an option.’

She concluded: ‘The immunotherapy should shut down the tumour and stop any further growth, making it manageable.

‘My drive is being a mum and I’ve got to stay positive.

‘It can feel like I’m fighting against the tide, but I need this treatment to work.’

To donate to Julia’s wedding, visit her GoFundMe page.

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