Spotlight on Swedish Covenant Hospital: Marie Beats Cancer, Then Helps Promote Life-Saving Screenings
Marie has long worn bright red lipstick and it’s become her business trademark and calling card. Now as a cancer survivor, this practice has evolved from a fashion statement to an important message to her family, friends and followers—she “will still wear red” to help remind people to get life-saving skin cancer screenings.
Marie credits Swedish Covenant Medical Group Primary Care Physician Dr. Angel Rivera and Dermatologist Dr. Emily Rubenstein with saving her life. “Dr. Rivera is an engaged listener,” Marie said. “Even though we don’t typically talk about skin, I told him about a dry skin area above my lip that never seemed to heal. He took me seriously, even though many doctors had brushed off the comment as vanity, and sent me to Dr. Rubenstein to get her expert opinion and advice. I knew he was an incredible doc, but what happened next saved my life.”
Dr. Rubenstein performed a biopsy that showed Marie had basal cell carcinoma. “Thankfully, I was able to have a MOHS surgical procedure to remove a patch of skin the size of a cigar butt from my face,” said Marie. “I was safe, but I wasn’t the same.”
The cancer was successfully removed by a surgeon at another hospital, but it left Marie with a disfigured lip. The plastic surgeon said there was nothing more that could be done, despite her lips showing a 1/4 inch difference when compared side to side.
“I’m a professional speaker and business owner, so appearances are critical to my career and my confidence which I am not ashamed to say is important,” she said. “Your face is how the world perceives you, and perception is reality.”
Having recently unexpectedly lost her life partner and business partner, Marie was facing personal and professional challenges that were greatly exacerbated by her disfigurement. Not one to take no for an answer, Marie returned to Dr. Rubenstein to seek a solution for her situation.
“Thankfully Dr. Rubenstein listened compassionately and took action,” said Marie. “She got me through it.” The doctor used fillers to even out Marie’s lips and significantly reduced her scar within a week. Marie is pleased to be cancer free and happy that her face is now a part of her journey, not all of her story.
“When you know you have these two excellent doctors on your side, it makes all the difference in the world,” Marie said. “Dr. Rivera is a truly unique physician who quite literally saved my life. If this had been another set of physicians I would have most likely lost my upper lip. You can only hear ‘no’ so many times before you give up, but thankfully they listened and knew exactly what to do in diagnosing and treating me.”
Paying it Forward
Marie considers herself a survivor. When something feels too big for her to handle alone, her knee-jerk reaction is to find out how she can help others to deal with the same situation. Since she is already known for wearing bright red lipstick, Marie had an idea to help others. She started a campaign on Facebook, using the hashtag #IWillStillWearRed to ask her friends and followers to take a picture wearing lipstick and commit to getting a skin cancer screening within a year.
Her social media campaign took off and more than 75 people have already completed skin screenings. Eight of these people tested positive for skin cancer and had it taken care of, according to Marie. “It was not even a blip on most people’s radar so they would never have gone to get checked until later,” she said. “I am proud to highlight the #IWillStillWearRed skin cancer campaign which has saved lives—no one should have to walk this path alone.”
Angel Rivera, D.O., is a board-certified internal medicine physician with Swedish Covenant Medical Group. His clinical interests include endocrinology, integrative and functional medicine, lifestyle and exercise. He treats a full range of conditions, including chronic illness, cardiopulmonary conditions, autoimmune conditions, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and major and minor psychiatric conditions, including insomnia.
Emily Rubenstein, D.O., is a board-certified dermatologist with Swedish Covenant Medical Group. who treats medical and cosmetic skin conditions in adults and children. She attended Midwestern University for medical school and completed her residency at Nova Southeastern University/Broward General Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
To schedule a skin screening or learn more about the Swedish Skin Institute, please visit: SwedishSkinInsititute.org
To learn more about Marie’s campaign, click here: #IWillStillWearRed