Karolina is sharing her story to make people aware of the unusual symptom that so many of us would dismiss.
Doctors aren’t sure what causes subungal melanoma, but we do know that UV exposure can accelerate its growth. That includes having acrylic nails done as well as time spent in the sun.
It turned out that the swelling was caused by a unrelated infection – lucky, as this is what made Karolina go to the doctor.
‘He said to take it as sign from God,’ Karolina told MailOnline. ‘And I do because if I hadn’t gotten the infection, I wouldn’t have gotten to go get [my finger] checked out.’
A few weeks after the cancer was diagnosed, Karolina had her thumbnail removed so that the melanoma wouldn’t return. Doctors took a skin graft from her groin to cover the area of her thumb where her nail used to be.
Karolina also had some moles removed as a precaution.
After months of covering up her thumb with plasters, she learned to be comfortable with the tiny flaw.
She says: ‘I thought everyone was going to be staring and it took a long time to get comfortable with it. Now people say: “Oh I wouldn’t have even known if you didn’t tell me you didn’t have a nail”.’
‘I want girls to know it’s okay to have a scar or a mole,’ she said.
‘For a long time, I thought my scars defined me. But, as insecure as I was, I still went on to compete as Miss Illinois.’
Karolina still gets her nails done, but avoids UV manicures, instead opting for a classic polish or a dip powder.
She wants her story to promote the importance of skin cancer awareness and protection..
‘Take safety precautions, wear sunblock, and if you gets your nails done, try to avoid UV rays,’ says Karolina. ‘Dipping powder is a great alternative.’
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The daily lifestyle email from Metro.co.uk.
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