Mum's eye sewn shut after lash tech sees 'tiny spot'

Chloe when her eye was sewn shut
Chloe's eye was sewn shut -Credit:Chloe Boulden/SWNS

A mum alerted to a tiny spot on her eye while getting her lashes done was diagnosed with skin cancer - and had to have her eye sewn shut to treat it. Chloe Boulden, 28, was told she had a tiny spot on her lash line when she went to get eyelash extensions in October 2022.

The spot beneath her left eye continued to grow and become red over the next few months - and Chloe became more concerned. In October 2023 a skin check-up led to her being booked in for an urgent appointment with a specialist.

A biopsy revealed the mum-of-four had basal cell carcinoma - a form of skin cancer caused by sun exposure. Chloe had to have the cancerous part of her eye cut away and a skin graft taken from her neck to replace it, in a full eye reconstructive surgery.

Then she had to have her eye sewn shut for weeks to get an established blood supply to the graft. Now Chloe wants to remind others of the importance of sun protection - and to warn people to "take skin cancer seriously".

Chloe, a baker, said: "When I went to my skin check, the doctor said 'I don't mean to scare you, but this doesn't look good'. It sunk in when I went to the plastic surgeon and he confirmed it was cancerous.

"To be 28 years old and need a full eyelid reconstruction is pretty devastating - when I went for the surgery I was very emotional. Unfortunately I found out the cancer had spread and I need another surgery, but fingers crossed that'll be it then.

"I never thought anything like this would happen to me - people seem to think skin cancer isn't as dangerous as other cancers, but it can be. And it can happen to anyone - no matter your age or gender."

Since becoming a mum to Aaliyah, 10, Amaya, eight, Orlo, five, and Meadow, three, Chloe said she had adopted a good attitude towards sun safety. But in her teenage years she would sunbathe for hours with no protection - lying on the beach until she was "red raw" and hoping the redness would turn into a tan.

She would even apply tanning oil with no SPF to help tan her further - not realising the damage she might be doing. But, years on, Chloe didn't think much of the small spot on her eye when she was first alerted to it.

Chloe in hospital
Chloe in hospital -Credit:Chloe Boulden/SWNS

She got it checked out anyway, but the optometrist reckoned it was just a blocked tear duct and prescribed an ointment. She went to A&E in March 2023 when her eye turned "really red" but again doctors didn't piece it together. But in October 2023, during her yearly skin check, the doctor spotted it.

Chloe said: "He checked my face and asked how long I had the lump on my eye. He said 'I don't mean to scare you, but this doesn't look good'. I was oblivious and in shock - I didn't even think it could be cancerous."

She was referred immediately to a top plastic surgeon - who "took one look and instantly knew". A biopsy was taken, which confirmed it was basal cell carcinoma and she was told she would need surgery.

On May 8 this year, she had a full eyelid reconstruction surgery where a specialist surgeon cut out the cancerous skin from her lower eyelid and replaced it with a 4mm skin graft from behind her ear. The doctors had to sew her eyelid shut for several weeks to allow the new skin graft to develop a blood flow.

While the surgery went well, Chloe learned it had spread and had slightly wider margins than anticipated. She will need one final surgery on May 29, which will remove any final cancer cells. Doctors will also unstitch her eye so she'll be able to see out of it again.

She said: "It's very frustrating because you can't physically open your eye. I can't go and play football with the kids, because I can't catch - I've lost all depth perception.

"Mentally, I'd love to just hide in a hole, but as a parent unfortunately that can’t happen. My husband, Drew, 31, is a fly-in-fly-out worker so he's away with work, but I have a good family support network at home."

If everything goes smoothly after, Chloe won't need further treatments apart from regular check-ups. But she said she wants her experience to be a lesson and a warning to others.

Chloe, from Adelaide, Australia, said: "The doctors can't tell me exactly how or why I developed cancer, but in the textbook it's commonly from severe sunburns. In my younger years, I got burnt a lot - I just never thought this would happen to me.

"It's about education and knowing what to look for - skin cancer isn't always a freckle or a mole. I want to raise awareness of what to look out for and remind people to get regular skin checks."