Melbourne man's shock cancer diagnosis: 'It looked like a pimple'

Josh Maschewski, 24, thought he had a pimple on his nose, but it turned out to be skin cancer.

Melbourne man's shock cancer diagnosis: 'It looked like a pimple'

*Graphic warning: images may disturb some readers*

When a young Melbourne man spotted a dot on his nose, a pimple seemed to be the most obvious diagnosis.

However, in a matter of weeks, the dot ballooned in size - and it turned out to be cancer.

Josh Maschewski, 24, and his partner Ayshe Nazifovski, 30, are now warning people to remain vigilant if they see an obscure spot on their face.

Speaking to, Ms Nazifovski said her partner developed the spot on his left nostril at the end of February, which looked just like a pimple - but was far from it.

"It just looked like a pimple that was about to get a head on it," she said.

"I tried to squeeze it, but nothing happened."


After two weeks, the spot had not disappeared, instead growing about 10 times in size, until it was as large as his nostril.

"It went from a dot to 10mm long in two weeks," Ms Nazifovski said.

"It grew even more - it appeared on the whole left side of his nostril."

Concerned, the 24-year-old sought advice from his local GP, who told him the dot was an infected boil and gave him antibiotics - but they were wrong.

When the antibiotics did not work, they rushed to a hospital in Melbourne's west to seek another opinion.

They waited more than 10 hours in the emergency department to be seen, only to be again told it was an infected boil.

At no point was his skin checked for cancer, Ms Nazifovski said.


"Everyone said it's an infected boil, you have to get it drained.

"It was an unpleasant experience - Josh just kept getting sent away with no answer, only this unknown lump growing bigger and bigger."

By this stage, Mr Maschewski was struggling to stay awake, constantly feeling lethargic, while complaining about a buzzing sensation in his nose.

"He was trying to work, and he kept saying: 'I want to sleep.' He started getting a buzzing sensation in his nose, he kept saying: 'it's buzzing, it's buzzing.'"

It was only when the pair went to a dermatologist when they finally got answers.

The dermatologist took one look at the 24-year-old's nose and was instantly concerned.

"He thought it was cancer and reacted quite quickly and cut it off," Ms Nazifovski said.

"[Josh] never imagined this would happen in his wildest dreams."

Test results returned a diagnosis for squamous cell carcinom (SCC), a common type of skin cancer.

The form of cancer can develop in parts of the body that get a lot of sun, including the head, neck, face, hands and arms.

According to Spot Check Skin Cancer Clinic, there are more than 2500 treatments provided for non-melanoma skin cancers in Australia, such as SCC, every day.

The rate of non-melanoma skin cancer increases significantly with age, Ms Nazifovski telling her partner may be one of the youngest cases of SCC.


However, the 24-year-old was not out of the woods, as despite the doctor being confident the cancer had been removed, it grew back.

Mr Maschewski has since been referred to the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, where he underwent his first operation to remove his left nostril.

He is now undergoing radiation therapy five days a week for six weeks.

Ms Nazifovski said doctors would not start reconstructing his nose until they were certain all of the cancer had been removed, which will likely be in two years' time.

"It's a big pill to swallow for a 24-year-old to hear you're not going to have a nose for the next two years," she said.

She set up a fundraiser to cover his medical expenses and bills, with Mr Maschewski unable to work for the next six months.


Since its launch, nearly $3000 has been raised to support the young man.

The 24-year-old's cancer battle has not come without a message, the pair urging others in similar positions to continue seeking different opinions if medical advice did not sit right.

"Josh's message would be - always just go with your gut," Ms Nazifovski said.

"If you feel like that professional advice is not sitting well with you, go somewhere else.

"We went to four different places with this 'infected boil'. So know your own body."

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Shouts, a hurried evacuation, and then the bombs came

My colleagues' shouts awakened me, and the pounding of my heart drowned out the racing of my mind. What was happening? Had someone been injured on the streets of Gaza City, or worse?

Shouts, a hurried evacuation, and then the bombs came

My colleagues' shouts awakened me, and the pounding of my heart drowned out the racing of my mind. What was happening? Had someone been injured on the streets of Gaza City, or worse?

It was 1:55pm on Saturday. I had been napping on the upper floor of the two-floor penthouse that served as The Associated Press' offices in Gaza City since 2006.

This was not unusual in recent days; since fighting began earlier this month, I had been sleeping in our news bureau until early afternoon, then working through the night.


I hurried downstairs and saw my colleagues donning helmets and protective vests. They were shouting: "Evacuation! Evacuation!"

The Israeli military, I would learn later, had targeted our building for destruction and offered up a brief advance warning: They had taken out three buildings so far this week, warning residents and occupants sometimes minutes beforehand to get out.

Hurriedly, I was told: You have 10 minutes.

What did I need? I grabbed my laptop and a few other pieces of electronics. What else? I looked at the workspace that had been mine for years, brimming with mementos from friends, family and colleagues.

I chose just a handful: a decorative plate bearing a picture of my family. A coffee mug given me by my daughter, now living safely in Canada with her sister and my wife since 2017.

A certificate marking five years of employment at AP.


I started to leave.

Then I looked back at this place that had been my second home for years. I realised this was the last time I might ever see it. It was just after 2pm.

I looked around. I was the last person there.


I put on my helmet. And I ran.

After the most unsettling of days in the community where I was born and raised and now cover the news — in the place where my mother and siblings and cousins and uncles live — I am home now.

I wish I could say I am safe here, but I can't. In Gaza, there is no safe place.

On Friday, an airstrike destroyed my family farm on the northern edge of Gaza.

And now, my Gaza City office — the place that I thought was sacrosanct and would go untargeted because both AP and al-Jazeera's offices were located on its top floors — is a pile of rubble and girders and dust.


Many Gazans have fared worse. At least 145 of us have been killed since Monday, when Hamas began firing hundreds of rockets into Israel, which has pounded the Gaza Strip with strikes.


In Israel, eight people have been killed, including a man killed by a rocket that hit in Ramat Gan, a suburb of Tel Aviv, on Saturday.

In our building, the clock in my head felt deafening as I ran out of the office. I ran down the 11 floors of stairs and into the basement parking garage. Suddenly I realised: My car was the only one there.

All others had evacuated. I threw my belongings in the back, jumped in and drove off.

When I felt I was far enough away, I parked the car and got out, making sure I had a view of my building. I found my colleagues nearby. They were watching, waiting for what was next.

Nearby, our building's owner was on the phone with the Israeli military officer who had told him to get the place evacuated.

The owner was begging for a bit more time. No, he was told. That won't be possible. Instead, he was told: Go back into the building and make sure everyone's out. You have 10 minutes. You'd better hurry.

I turned toward our building to watch. I was praying that maybe, maybe it wouldn't happen. I thought of the families that lived on the upper five floors of the building, below the media bureaus and above the offices on the lower floors.

What would they do? Where would they go?

Other journalists clustered around, just at the edge of safety, steeled for what was next. My intrepid video colleagues tended to their live shot.

Then, in quick succession over the next eight minutes: a small drone airstrike, followed by another and another. And then three powerful airstrikes from F-16s.

At first, it looked like layers of something collapsing.

I thought of a bowl of potato chips, and what might happen if you slammed a fist into them. Then the smoke and dust enveloped everything.

The sky rumbled. And the building that was home to some people, an office to others and both to me disappeared in a shroud of dust.


In my pocket, I still had a key to a room that no longer existed.

Standing with my colleagues about 400 meters (yards) away, I watched for a while and tried to process it all as the rubble started to settle.

White smoke was overtaken by thick clouds of black smoke as the structure crumbled. Dust and pieces of cement and shards of glass scattered everywhere. What we knew so well was gone.

I thought of all of my hundreds of mementos that were now in splinters — including the 20-year-old cassette recorder I used when I first became a journalist.


If I had had an hour, I would have grabbed everything.

It was one of the most horrible scenes I have ever witnessed. But while I was deeply sad, there was gratitude, too — as far as I knew, no people had been hurt — neither any of my colleagues nor anybody else.

That would be confirmed in the coming hours, as more information came out and my bosses at AP condemned an attack that "shocked and horrified" them.

I wondered how long I should stay and watch. It was then that my years of instinct kicked in — the instinct of covering so much violence and sadness in the place that is my home.

Our building was gone and would not be coming back. Already, other things were happening that I needed to cover.

You must realise: We journalists, we are not the story. The priority for us is not ourselves. It is to tell the stories of other people, those who are living their lives in the communities we cover.

So I spent a few more moments watching the end of the place that shaped so much of my life. And then I began to wake up from this nightmare.

I said to myself: It has been done. Now let's figure out what to do next. Let's keep covering it all.

This is history, and there are more stories to tell. And like always, as the world shakes around us, it is up to us to figure out how.

Fares Akram is a journalist in Gaza for The Associated Press.

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