Kathy Sabine Returning to 9News After Skin Cancer Surgeries

Kathy Sabine shared this selfie on August 9.
Kathy Sabine shared this selfie on August 9. @KathySabine9
Kathy Sabine, 9News meteorologist and one of Denver's favorite TV news personalities for nearly thirty years, is scheduled to return to the airwaves today, August 10, just over a month after surgery for skin cancer — a medical odyssey she shared in order to increase awareness about the disease and save lives.

Sabine is expected to be back at the 9News weather map during the 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. broadcasts.

As Sabine told us last month, she's loved the great outdoors since her childhood growing up in the Lake Tahoe area, and as an adult, she's been diligent about sunscreen use. But during a May visit to see Dr. Leslie Capin, whom she describes as "the best dermatologist in the state and perhaps the country," an age spot on her nose raised concern, and a punch biopsy revealed that she had skin cancer — not melanoma, the deadliest form of the disease, but a basal cell-squamous hybrid.

Because of the cancer's location, Sabine was scheduled for two operations on July 8: one a Mohs procedure to remove the troubling area, and then plastic surgery to reconstruct her nose using cartilage from her ear (click to access a description of Mohs surgery from the Skin Cancer Foundation). And the discovery of another squamous on her forehead added even more complications to an already challenging sequence of events.

"In my case, it took three cuts," she said. "They took one cut, put it under the microscope, and went back again to do another. That's why there was a big hole on the side of my nose. Then they saw another spot near my eyes and found another cancer cell — and that meant they had to do another Mohs procedure. Then they took me over to the hospital, and the plastic surgeon met me there. That surgery went on for hours as well, because with so much of my nose gone and the other cancer they found, they had to come up with a whole new plan for me."
click to enlarge
(From left) A Kathy Sabine post-surgical photo sans bandage; a look at the bolts holding her ear together; the portion of her ear from which cartilage was taken.
Photos courtesy of Kathy Sabine
The decision to share graphic photos of the post-surgical process on social media wasn't a difficult decision for Sabine. "I've always wanted to be real with people," she notes. "And if this saves one person, who cares about vanity?"

Initially, Sabine hoped to be cleared to make her 9News comeback on August 1, but her physicians said she wasn't quite ready to put on makeup for broadcast. She took the delay in stride, tweeting the following on that day: "Thanks for all the love folks! And for sharing your stories. It really has been such a sense of community during a time when I felt isolated stuck inside for several weeks. Hearing your stories I know that many of you have felt the same way. THANK YOU for that connection."

Then, on August 9, she offered a Twitter update: "The surgeon has me applying silicone gel and tinted sunscreen, he says to use 50 SPF with zinc FYI...and I started trying to figure out the makeup situation. Going to be a process...but I am gonna take a deep breath and be back on the air tomorrow Wednesday at four and five."

In a note to Westword, Sabine elaborates: "I am looking forward to going back to 9News and reconnecting with everyone. Not gonna lie: I do feel a little bit of anxiety about it because I don’t quite feel or look 100 percent like myself...but I’m so grateful for the outpouring of love and support. I so appreciate the vulnerability of people who have shared their own stories, and I am grateful to have the platform and opportunity to get the word out about skin cancer in Colorado! It’s for real, and people need to get the facts!"

She adds: "I never thought it would happen to me! Like many Coloradans, I love to enjoy this beautiful state, the sunshine and the outdoors, but I have learned you have to be smart — and even then, sometimes, it’s not enough. I want to show people that you can come back from something like this. A lot of people reached out about how they felt anxiety and depression, they felt isolated because they looked different after the skin cancer surgeries. I can relate. But you can come back from this. So if I can be an inspiration to even one person who’s felt those feelings and give them hope I’m here for it! I’ve only been applying makeup for a few days, so that will be a process trying to navigate around the scar that will still take months to heal. But it will heal and I am grateful. Thank you, everybody."

It's already been quite a story — and this afternoon will bring the latest chapter.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts