Harold Piercey has survived 34 years of teaching high school students, 15 of those years he spent as school principal. This resident of Milltown, Newfoundland has also spent time as a member of the provincial House of Assembly, representing the District of Hermitage. But the toughest task he’s ever faced had nothing to do with troublesome teenagers or the rough and tumble world of politics. His biggest battle was skin cancer.
In 1996, Harold was diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma, the most common form of skin cancer. A tumour had grown over his left eye and a dermatologist had removed it.
Several years later, Harold noticed a scaly, rough patch of skin on his left cheek, close to his eye. This time, the diagnosis was squamous cell carcinoma, the second most common type of skin cancer, which often appears on sun-exposed areas. Although the tumour was quickly removed, it re-appeared shortly afterwards. So Harold was referred to an ear-nose-and-throat specialist in St. John’s.
“One of the doctors there examined the tumour and, without hesitation, told me that ‘this could kill you.’ It was a frightening situation,” he recalls.
Harold received 17 radiation treatments, but still the tumour wasn’t beaten. Several months later, he returned to St. John’s for surgery. “The doctors advised me that I could possibly lose my cheekbone and my ear. Fortunately, they did the job without losing either.”
At Harold’s side was Susie, his wife of 54 years. “One of our sons and our two daughters live in St. John’s and they were a really good support for him, too” she says.
Harold underwent three skin graphs to repair the damage to his face. Since his last surgery in 2005, this grandfather of six has been cancer free. “I have to go for check-ups every six months.”
It’s somehow appropriate that Harold and Susie live in the Bay D’Espoir area of the province. “Bay D’Espoir means Bay of Hope in French,” explains Susie. “We have to have hope,” says Harold.