The Psychological Impact of Skin Cancer Cuts Deep
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A Personal Letter From Maggie-May Hughes
Author & Founder #CancelSkinCancer 

So I’ve been made to feel that skin cancer is somehow less.

I’m not talking about melanoma (now that’s some serious shit!), I’m talking about the non-serious type.

The slow growing type that rarely spreads.

The type that makes people say ‘well, it’s not like it’s real cancer’.

The type that, once it’s gone, you’re supposed to just get over it.

Well, let’s get real here people… that’s just total B.S.!

Fact: over 5 million people are diagnosed with non-melanoma skin cancer every year.
80% of those cancers are Basal Cell Carcinoma.
That’s 4 million people – and one of those is me.
Around 2,000 people die from basal cell and squamous cell skin cancer each year.
Another 4,630 people die from other, less common, types of skin cancer every year.
Shockingly high numbers for a ‘non-serious, not really cancer’ type of cancer, wouldn’t you agree?

Reference: Cancer.net Skin Cancer (Non-Melanoma): Statistics. Approved by the Cancer.net Editorial Board, 01/2020


My name is Maggie-May Hughes and I’m here to represent anyone who has been made to feel that their skin cancer is less.

It’s not less, it’s real.

And its effects can be felt long after it’s gone.

Let me tell you how I know this…

Mine was, as my older brother so gently put it, “slap bang in the middle of my kisser”. Which, let me tell you, is an unfortunate place to have skin cancer. It was in this very moment that I realised I would never kiss anyone ever again. Ever. Period.

Now that’s a profound realisation to have at 35.

I was paranoid that I could somehow pass on one of those sneaky cancer cells and, I don’t want to make myself cry here, but it’s difficult for me not to get choked up when I say this… I’ve never kissed my grandchildren. This is something I will never be able to do, just in case, & that makes me sad (some will say neurotic), but that’s the shitty deal I have to live with.

The psychological impact of skin cancer cuts deep. If you’re gonna hate on that, let me ask you this… do you need a hug?

I’m here to share my sorry tale of a lost lip, dark and joyless times, moments of revelation and embracing my new face. *the irony of embracing my new face & the new normal of wearing face masks is not lost on me…

Sounds like a fun ride but you wouldn’t have wanted to be there. Since my original diagnosis, I’ve lost a small chunk from the tip of my nose, a healthy slice from my right shoulder, a quarter of my top lip – the cupid’s bow part – and a little piece of my spirit each & every time.
Damn, I had no idea how important that little piece of muscle was! I’d lost a powerful part of my face that I had used all day, every day, even in my sleep, for all of my life. And it was gone.

Losing the centre of my top lip, from the nose down, made for a much more serious recovery than I would ever have thought. I was in shock. It felt so numb and my function was at zero, which meant I couldn’t even drink from a cup. I invested in a large box of straws but couldn’t use these properly either. After trial and error, I managed to get a decent grip using the corner of my mouth.

This was my first big achievement. A few straws went astray in the early days, which caused some serious pain – not gonna lie! It also slowed down the healing process, but it was difficult for my muscle memory to adjust and I regularly jabbed the stitches with the tip of a straw. That’s enough to make you pee your pants let me tell you – & I know this for a fact.

Who could have known that re-training myself to use a straw was gonna be on my list of things to learn as an adult? Bizarre! Chewing was also hazardous & squishy meals were my new normal. No more belting out a tune or two – whistling was also out the window.
Oh well, at least I could still hum…

But the biggest mind-f**k was that I couldn’t laugh, or even smile, because it was just so gnarly & fragile. It was a real issue though, for real! I had to physically hold the two sides of the stitches together every time I thought of something funny. It’s amazing how many times a day I had to hold my face together! So I waved goodbye to the world, removed all traces of social media and committed myself to researching skin cancer, watching documentaries and purposely avoiding anything remotely funny. My world became so serious and joyless (I don’t recommend it) but I knew that’s what it was gonna take if I ever wanted my ‘non-lip’ to recover.

The sad thing is, for a long time after the healing process was over, I still didn’t care that life was rolling by without me. This new face wasn’t me – I loved my old face. It wasn’t perfect and I had the worlds’ smallest lips… but still, I missed that face. I knew who that person was.

I felt socially empty.

My diagnosis was delivered over a call that I received shortly after lunch on Wednesday 17th June 2009.
It’s almost 12 years later and I calculate that as another 36 million skin cancers.

**36 MILLION!!!**

This makes me wonder – how many millions of people, just like me, are suffering from the psychological impact of skin cancer? The non-serious type that is… More importantly, what can I do to help? Can I somehow help reduce future incidences of the world’s most prevalent & (mostly) preventable cancer?

Let’s get this discussion out in the open & underway. I’m happy to start things off but it’s lonely – anyone else wanna share?

I hope you join the revolution!  Much Love, Maggie-May xxx 
Founder of MyNewFace.org

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