DENVER — 9NEWS Chief Meteorologist Kathy Sabine is discussing her journey through a recent skin cancer diagnosis, treatment, surgery and recovery. She hopes her story inspires others to get regular examinations.
"Skin cancer in Colorado is for real," said Sabine. "It’s painful and scary. Even if you grow up and enjoy the outdoors at elevation like I have my whole entire life and you wear sunscreen and hats, sometimes it’s just not enough."
Sabine is a seven-time Emmy Award recipient for best meteorologist, a broadcast veteran of 35 years and part of the 9NEWS team since 1993.
Sabine's journey began in May when she went to see Dr. Leslie Capin of Advanced Dermatology to talk about some issues with her scalp and hair thinning.
"I mentioned on the way out the door, 'Hey, I have what looks like a new age spot on my nose. I had it checked a few months ago. What do you think?'"
"She was immediately drawn to the outer ring of the age spot where she saw what she thought was a basal cell carcinoma," said Sabine. "She said that I needed to get a punch biopsy as soon as possible and she would like me to do that with a plastic surgeon."
Capin scheduled a punch biopsy on the spot for Sabine. Then, a few days later, Sabine learned that the analysis confirmed she had skin cancer — not melanoma, the deadliest form of the disease, but a basal cell-squamous hybrid.
"Fortunately we caught it then because if I had not casually mentioned it, it could have been a potentially worse outcome," said Sabine.
Sabine had two operations in July — one a Mohs procedure to remove the troubling area and then plastic surgery to reconstruct her nose using cartilage from her ear.
"The Mohs procedure involves doing an initial small cut to try to get all of the cancer. The doctors put the excised tissue or skin under a microscope in an in-house lab hoping to see that your margins are clear of cancer."
"Unfortunately for me, they had to go back three times. One cut each hour before all the margins were clear of cancer. My one-hour Mohs surgery went four hours."
"As soon as my margins were clear of cancer, my wounds were left open and bandaged as I was transported immediately to Castle Rock Adventist Hospital where I met the plastic surgeon, Dr. Archibald," Sabine said. "Since I had flesh missing from the side and tip of my nose, there was the potential for nasal reconstruction."
"There was a second biopsy on the top of my nose which turned out to be benign and a third incision between my eyes where the Mohs surgeon, Dr. Basak, biopsied a spot that she found and that indeed turned out to be another skin cancer, this time squamous and involved a second Mohs procedure."
"I was put under anesthesia and the plastic surgery and reconstruction went on longer than planned for several more hours because of what the Mohs doctor had found," said Sabine. "Dr. Archibald had to come up with a whole new plan once I got to he hospital."
"It was a surprise to me, but the most painful part was the ear! They took cartilage from my ear to rebuild the front of my nose and that was actually more painful than the incisions and stitches on my face!"
Sabine said she could have more plastic surgery depending on how her nose heals, but she hopes to be cleared for everyday activities and a return to 9NEWS, following a doctor's appointment at the end of the month.
"I am grateful for the wonderful team of doctors and the amazing technology today," Sabine said. "I am told skin cancer is deceiving because, like the tip of an iceberg, what you see at the surface is never what lies beneath, which can be deep and extensive."
Sabine grew up at elevation in Truckee, California, and knows the high risk of skin cancer of living at Colorado's elevation.
"I really never though it would happen to me. I've never had a skin cancer frozen off, biopsied or removed, and even though I enjoy the outdoors and I've grown up at elevation, I thought I was doing all the right things with multiple layers of sunscreen and hats for myself and my family."
Sabine hopes by sharing her experience and the importance of getting regular skin examinations, more people will be comfortable and inspired to get their skin checked.
"Early detection is key, yearly screenings are key, knowing the facts of skin cancer in Colorado is key," Sabine said. "Knowledge is power and there are things you can do to prevent skin cancer with your own family."
"It is so easy to get your skin checked. It literally takes 15 minutes at a dermatologists office for them to see what you can't and for you to potentially save your own life."
"I've learned so much in the past few weeks about skin cancer and the elevated risk here in Colorado, but if caught early it's preventable and treatable. And we are fortunate to have some of the best dermatologists in the country right here in Colorado. All you have to do is make it part of your yearly doctor visit."
"I am grateful to have this platform, to get the word out about this. As a person on TV, people think they know me, maybe people on TV are not always viewed as real people with real problems, and so my hope is that by keeping it real with people in some small way I can make a difference."
"I'm thankful we live in a day and age where there are wonderful healthcare professionals that can help us get through medical challenges like this in life."
"The reason the tears are flowing is not my vanity, so much as the love and support from all of you and how many of you have shared your similar stories and how many of you have told me you have gone out and gotten your own skin and spots checked," Sabine wrote on Facebook. "If this makes a difference and saves one life that’s all that matters. It’s a good reminder to me that no matter how much we think we know people, you never really know what’s going on behind a pretty smile or the image of a perfect life."
If you'd like to send Sabine a message, you can email her at email@example.com.
Skin cancer resources in Colorado
SUGGESTED: Kathy Sabine: 9NEWS Chief Meteorologist
> Top stories curated daily just for you! Sign up for the 9NEWSLETTER to get can’t-miss stories, Next and Broncos content, weather and more delivered right to your inbox.
SUGGESTED VIDEOS: Feature stories
MORE WAYS TO GET 9NEWS
Subscribe to our daily 9NEWSLETTER
HOW TO ADD THE 9NEWS APP TO YOUR STREAMING DEVICE
ROKU: add the channel from the ROKU store or by searching for KUSA.
For both Apple TV and Fire TV, search for "9news" to find the free app to add to your account. Another option for Fire TV is to have the app delivered directly to your Fire TV through Amazon.