Chronic nail-biter has thumb amputated after developing rare cancer

Chronic nail-biter has thumb amputated after developing rare cancer
PHOTO: Facebook/Courtney Whithorn

If you have a habit of biting your nails, this may make you want to stop.

Courtney Whithorn from Gold Coast, Australia had been chewing on her nails all her life.

But her habit got worse after she was bullied in high school. One time, the anxiety-ridden teen gnawed off a whole thumbnail.

Her exposed nail bed soon turned black and she kept her unsightly digit hidden from sight for four years.

"My hand was just constantly in a fist because I didn't want anyone to see it - not even my parents," she told the Daily Mail.

Now 20, Whithorn wanted to restore the look of her thumb, so she saw a plastic surgeon last July.

Her doctor, however, was troubled by the sight of her discoloured digit and urged her to undergo a biopsy.

She was later diagnosed with a rare form of skin cancer - acral lentiginous subungual melanoma - which occurs under the nails, on the palms of hands or the soles of feet.

Although most cases of melanoma are caused by exposure to the sun, instances of subungual melanoma are linked with injury or trauma.

Over the past year, Whithorn underwent three surgeries to remove the nail bed and cancer cells.

But she was forced to amputate her right thumb last week because the cancer had started to spread.

Now, the psychology undergraduate is recovering well in hospital and awaiting test results.

If they give the all-clear, her surgeon will continue to monitor her condition for the next five years.

Without her thumb, however, Whithorn has to put her favourite pastime - writing - on hold for now.

"I love to write. I journal a lot. The thought of not being able to write is definitely a big change for me," she said.

minlee@sph.com.sg

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