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Looking through life with a different eye

Debate teacher Sally Squibb shares journey fighting skin cancer

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Looking through life with a different eye

Debate teacher Sally Squibb holds a picture of her eye she had surgery on.

Debate teacher Sally Squibb holds a picture of her eye she had surgery on.

Photo by Clarise Tujardon

Debate teacher Sally Squibb holds a picture of her eye she had surgery on.

Photo by Clarise Tujardon

Photo by Clarise Tujardon

Debate teacher Sally Squibb holds a picture of her eye she had surgery on.

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Tears stream down her face as she attempts to process the information she just received. As she sits down on the couch with a friend, various amounts of emotions boil inside of her such as anger, sadness and fear. Her hands grip the pillows and she throws everything in sight. Finally, she releases all her anger as sadness takes over.

In March 2006, speech and debate teacher Sally Squibb went to the dermatologist’s office anxiously waiting for the results of her biopsy. Her heart pounded as the doctor told her about the results. The results came back positive; she had skin cancer.

“After the biopsy came back positive my husband said, ‘This is a surprise, you have caught this cancer early enough and the surgeons will be able to remove all of it,’” debate teacher Sally Squibb said.”I cried all the way home from the dermatologist, and then once I got home, I was angry.”

Squibb went through 72 surgeries to fight off skin cancer. One of the surgeries she underwent was Mohs micrographic surgery, which removed all cancerous cells from her eye. This surgery has the highest cure rate available. It left a small scar underneath her eye which took time to heal. Even though she was in a difficult situation, Squibb was curious about the process of the Mohs surgery.

“I’ve always been fascinated by how doctors, vets, farmers or firemen do their jobs,’’ Squibb said. “I am still childlike by wanting to know what’s going on, so being able to have a mirror and [to] watch the process calmed me down.’’

As she entered Mohs Surgery Center, she was horrified at the scene she was greeted with. There were people who had unusual scars that held stories and had gone through a lot in the past few years. This terrified Squibb as she entered the surgery room. Although Squibb was amazed at the process she had undergone to treat her skin cancer, she was excited about the next thing life had in store for her.

“I saw very elderly men whose ears were missing, had no more noses or whose lips had been surgically removed,” Squibb said. “They looked like ‘Phantom of the Opera’ characters from monster movies. I was afraid that I would spend the rest of my life looking like them.”

Squibb’s journey changed her as a person, but throughout all of this, she had the support of her husband, Dennis Cstari, who helped her watch out for her health.

“Emotional support is very important and that’s what I provided,” Csatari said. “[I am most grateful] that the pre-cancerous growths [were] removed in a timely manner and she is receiving regular medical assessments.”

As Squibb went through treatment, she was able to adjust to the new settings of her life, such as going to the dermatologist every six months and taking better care of her skin. Squibb was still able to complete her daily activities and teach her students and make impacts on their lives.

“My favorite part of Ms. Squibb’s class was listening to the stories she told,” Squibb’s former student and current debate teacher Liana Massengale said. “She fostered my love for communication that motivated me to major in Communication Studies at UNT. She is one of the main reasons [why] I became a teacher.”

Throughout the process, Squibb was still able to stay positive. Having skin cancer didn’t stop her from doing the things she loved such as teaching and spending time with her friends and family. Due to going through skin cancer treatment, Squibb learned to live her life to the fullest because tomorrow is never promised.

“I have learned that I am strong, resilient, and certainly not Superwoman,” Squibb said. “I have learned I can survive lots of scary things too.”  

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