A college student had her thumb amputated after developing a rare form of skin cancer from biting her nails.
Courtney Whithorn, 20, developed the nervous habit after being bullied at school and even bit her thumbnail in 2014.
In spite of & # 39; going crazy & # 39; When her thumb started to turn black, the embarrassed teenager kept it hidden from her friends and family for four years.
After seeing a doctor, the psychology student discovered that she had caused such trauma in her nail bed that it became an uncommon cancer, known as acral lentiginous subungual melanoma, and was diagnosed last July.
Despite undergoing multiple surgeries to remove the cancer, and try to save her thumb, Miss Whithorn, who lives in Brisbane, was forced to have her finger removed last week.
Although Miss Whithorn's doctor stated that her cancer was caused by her habit of biting her nails, other doctors do not agree.
Dr. Nis Sheth, consulting dermatologist and spokesperson for the British Skin Foundation, told MailOnline: "While physical trauma has been associated with the appearance of some skin cancers, it is very unlikely that the bite of the nails has caused this Cancer".
College student Courtney Whithorn had to amputate her thumb after developing a rare form of skin cancer caused by biting her nails, which was triggered by being harassed
The stress and anxiety of being bullied caused Miss Whithorn to bite her nail bed in 2014, which caused her to bleed profusely and turn black. Embarrassed by the appearance of her digit, Miss Whithorn hid her thumb (in the photo before her diagnosis) for four years
After going to the doctor, Miss Whithorn endured four surgeries to remove her tumor. His thumb was finally amputated due to the "protocol" of treating his cancer
Miss Whithorn, who moved to Australia from Durham nine years ago, said: "When I discovered that biting my nail was the cause of cancer, it shattered me.
"In my head I thought, 'I've done this to myself,' but obviously I knew I should not have that mentality." I could not believe it.
"When you think about how many children bite their nails, it's crazy that has come to that."
Although Miss Whithorn's nail looked unhealthy for years, she maintained her problematic appearance for her.
She said: I bit the nail and obviously I was very aware of how black it was.
"My hand was constantly in a fist because I did not want anyone to see it, not even my parents.
"I got a little scared when my skin started to turn black, so I showed it to them for the first time this year.
I can not even explain how shy I was. I always had false fingernails to hide it because it was very black. It was like paper every time he grew up. "
When Miss Whithorn heard that her cancer had been caused by her incessant nail biting, at first she blamed herself, but since then she realized that it was not her fault for what happened
She finally showed her thumb (in the photo after her first surgery) to her parents when the surrounding skin began to turn black. It never occurred to him that the problem could be cancer
Although the idea of amputating her thumb initially caused Miss Whithorn to go "crazy," she accepted it after learning that her cancer was spreading (pictured after amputation).
Miss Whithorn says that without the support of her boyfriend Tyson Donnelly (in the photo) she is not sure how she could have overcome it. The couple has been dating for four years and they met after Donnelly defended her at school when her classmates intimidated her.
Miss Whithorn, who postponed her studies while recovering, finally visited a family doctor when her skin began to turn black and was referred to a plastic surgeon.
She said: "I saw two plastic surgeons, and they were thinking of removing the bed from the nail to get rid of the black and then putting a skin graft on it so that it would at least be the color of the skin." I was happy with that.
"But before my first surgery to remove the nail, the doctors could say that something was wrong and they decided to do a biopsy.
& # 39; I had to wait six weeks to get the results. They were sent to Sydney because they could not tell if the biopsy was malignant or benign.
"The result was uncertain, so the surgeons wanted to be sure and eliminate all the nail bed and any blackness.
She added: "They did more tests and when those results came back, they told me it was a malignant melanoma that was very rare to have there, especially for someone my age and in that size.
"Obviously I was very shocked, I could not believe it at all." My mother burst into tears.
After seeing a doctor for aesthetic reasons, Miss Whithorn was initially referred to a plastic surgeon, who suggested a skin graft. A biopsy was done in advance to be sure, with the results like cancer (your thumb appears in the photo after your second surgery)
Despite the fact that the amputation was a success, Miss Whithorn (pictured after the surgery) has not yet been made clear. Because her cancer is rare, doctors can not tell the student what her prognosis is, which makes her cry every time she is mentioned.
Miss Whithorn says she was more afraid of the needles that are used than the amputation itself
Although she is happy with how everything has turned out, Miss Whithorn is aware that her cancer can return, which would force surgeons to "keep cutting until we have a clear result."
WHAT IS THE SUBUNGUAL ACRAL LENTIGINOUS?
Acral lentiginous subungual melanoma is a form of skin cancer that develops on the palms of a person's hand, the soles of their feet or under their nails.
It usually begins as a flat patch of discolored skin, which may look like a blemish, which slowly enlarges for months or years.
Acral lentiginous subungual is a rare form of skin cancer and accounts for less than one percent of melanoma cases in fair-skinned people, who are at higher risk.
Its cause is not clear and is not related to sun exposure. It is thought to be triggered by genetic mutations and generally affects people over 40 years of age.
As the cancer grows, the affected lesions can be several centimeters wide and contain a variety of colors: brown, black, blue-gray and red.
Although soft at first, the affected skin often becomes thick with an irregular surface, like a wart, and may bleed or ulcerate.
Initial treatment usually involves cutting the lesion. If the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes, they are often also eliminated.
Source: DermNet NZ
Miss Whithorn, who worked as a part-time receptionist, underwent two surgeries to remove her nail. An exploration of the inner cells of his thumb then suggested that he was in the clearing.
However, just a week later, specialists in Sydney told Miss Whithorn's surgeon that the protocol for her form of cancer is amputation.
Miss Whithorn said: "The plastic surgeon sent me a text message saying that the protocol for this melanoma, because it is very rare, is amputation.
"I had a panic attack at work, I read the word" amputation "and I ran away, I could not breathe, I got scared, we never talked about amputation.
"We went and we saw a melanoma specialist who also agreed that the amputation was a protocol because it was such a rare cancer."
In an attempt to avoid amputation, his surgeon performed a third operation to remove the remaining malignant cells, however, that operation only confirmed the need to amputate.
Miss Whithorn said, "I went to sleep without knowing if I was going to wake up with my thumb or not."
In addition to operating with the finger, Miss Whithorn also had two lymph nodes removed to determine if her cancer had spread.
She said: "Because I had started traveling, the only option left was amputation.
"I was not afraid to go to amputation surgery, I was more nervous since I'm not a big fan of needles and stuff."
Miss Whithorn's thumb is represented after her third surgery, which involved the surgeons making a larger incision in an attempt to remove the remaining cancer cells and save the finger
Despite his best efforts, the third surgery only confirmed the need to amputate
Although happy now, Miss Whithorn describes her habit of biting her nails as a "defense mechanism" while being intimidated, with her often ignoring that she was even doing it.
Even though the amputation was a success, Miss Whithorn has not yet been made clear.
She said: I'm still waiting for that set of results from the surgery last week and if it's clear, then the surgeon looks at me for the next five years, and I get regular scans and blood.
"There is not enough research to say what the survival rate is or the probability of it coming back because we just do not know much about it." I only cry whenever it has been mentioned.
"The location of the cancer on my thumb is unknown, so if it still appears, they'll have to keep cutting until we get a clear result."
Mr. Donnelly told Miss Whithorn's thugs "shut up and leave her alone", which made the couple sit down to chat. The couple has been together since then
In addition to her boyfriend's support, she thanks her family, who have been hit hard by the ordeal
At 16 years of age, Miss Whithorn was the victim of the uproar at school, with the stress and anxiety that caused her intense nail biting.
She said: "I've been a nail bite all my life, but in 2014 I was in year 11 in high school and was bullied chronically.
"The rumors started about me and if I sat with people at lunch they would completely ignore me as if I did not exist." Biting my nails became a defense mechanism for me.
"I did not even know that I was biting my nails sometimes, it just happened." In a way, I lost the feeling because I did it often.
"I did not even realize that I had bitten my thumbnail until I saw how much blood was in my hand.
She added: "It never really grew back the same, it just grew on the side of my thumb and I kept biting it, and eventually the bottom of my nail turned black.
"I just thought he was dead like when people hit their nails."
Miss Whithorn, who thought her black nail was due to being "dead", like when someone is hitting her hand, worries how many children are at risk because of their biting habits
The student, who now trusts, would like to have tried harder in school and believes that this could have prevented her ordeal. She encourages others to be more frank
After her classmate Tyson Donnelly, 20, defended her during the intense harassment, he and Miss Whithorn became more than friends and have been dating for four years.
Miss Whithorn said: "I and Tyson went to the same school, I was not really friends with him, but he literally approached these girls who were talking about me and told them to shut up and leave me alone.
"He took me to sit with him and that's how we met." We've been together since then, so it's a good thing to get out of that.
"Without my boyfriend or my family, honestly, I do not know how I could have overcome all this."
Miss Whithorn is talking to encourage people who are being bullied to tell someone, as well as for the aggressors to reconsider their actions.
She said: I wish I had the confidence and openness that I have now.
"If I could say something, it would be just for yourself, no matter what is necessary, defend yourself."
"Some people have asked me who is my greatest hero or the greatest influence and now I say" I. "Be your own person and know what you need to be."