Taylor Nance: Battling Skin Cancer and Winning

Taylor Nance:

Taylor Nance:

For Taylor Nance, skin cancer awareness means more than a designation for the month of May. This Sugar Land resident and junior at Austin High School has been through more than most high schoolers can claim. In the past three years, she was diagnosed with skin cancer, underwent surgery and chemotherapy, prevailed over the disease and found a new passion for her future.

Taylor’s journey began her freshman year. When going through her regular routine one morning, she found a new mole on her ear. Over the next month, it grew and changed shape rapidly, which prompted Taylor’s family to see a dermatologist. Shortly thereafter, the mole was removed, Taylor was diagnosed with Clarks level 4 melanoma, and she was referred to MD Anderson in Sugar Land for a consultation.

Taylor met her physician, Mark Zafereo, M.D., who calmly guided her and her family through his plan for treatment, surgery and the reconstruction of her ear that would follow. She had surgery to remove the part of her ear affected by cancer and five lymph nodes in November 2011, followed by surgery to reconstruct her ear the next month. She then underwent immunotherapy through 2012 and is now living free of cancer, only visiting her doctor for check-up scans and x-rays.

Her experience at MD Anderson in Sugar Land was overwhelmingly positive. From her first meeting with Zafereo, Taylor felt like she was in good hands.  “He calmed me down and made me feel like everything was going to be okay,” Taylor said.

Taylor’s positive review extended beyond her physician, to the nurses who did her blood work, the people staffing the front desk and everyone else she came into contact with during her visits who seemingly always had smiles on their faces.  “I don’t think I ever met a negative person at MD Anderson,” Taylor said.

Taylor’s mother, Ashly Nance, said her family had a great support system of friends and community members throughout the process.  “That support, and finding a place where we knew we would get the right treatment, allowed us to feel more comfortable and just focus on taking care of our child,” she said.

Today, Taylor is doing great. She stays busy as a social officer on the Austin Angels Dance Team, an officer of Fellowship for Christian Athletes and by participating in community service for the National Honor Society. And, she’s busy planning her future.

Before her experience with cancer, Taylor was unsure of her career path, but after her time with the kindhearted nurses at MD Anderson, she has decided she wants to follow in their footsteps. She loves working with people and believes she would be able to relate to patients in a special way since she has experienced cancer treatment first hand. She hopes to attend the nursing school at Texas Tech and eventually work with children.

Tips to Preventing Skin Cancer

May is National Skin Cancer Awareness Month, and according to Mark Zafereo, M.D., of MD Anderson in Sugar Land, prevention is key. Tips to preventing skin cancer include:

Always Wear Sunscreen

Make sure to wear sunscreen whenever you will be out in the sun, even if it’s just for a quick 15 minutes. Choose a sunscreen that is at least SPF 30 that protects from both UV-A and UV-B rays, and don’t forget to reapply every two hours.

Cover Up

Cover as much of your body as possible. Wear wrap around sunglasses that absorb at least 99 percent of UV rays to protect your eyes and the skin around your eyes and hats and clothes that cover larger parts of the body like long dresses and tunic tops.

Plan Ahead

Plan your day. Seek shade between 10 am to 4 pm since that is when the sun’s rays are the strongest.


Avoid tanning beds. People who use tanning beds are significantly more likely to develop melanoma than those who opt against them. If you are still seeking the bronzed look, try safe self-tanning products.