The power of video chat: How Marco Polo helped one woman catch skin cancer

It was her daily chats with friends, and seeing her face in Polos, that drew Crystal’s attention to an odd mark on her forehead.
Friends & Family

Crystal Calla considers herself low-maintenance – even more so since she started working from home during the pandemic.

“Sometimes I just roll out of bed and start my day,” the human resources manager says. “I don’t spend a lot of time in front of the mirror putting on makeup or just looking at myself.”

It was her daily chats with friends, and seeing her face in Polos, that drew Crystal’s attention to an odd mark on her forehead. Over time, she noticed in subsequent Polos that the mark grew and changed.

When she followed her hunch and had it checked out, she learned that the spot was a basal cell carcinoma skin cancer.

“The app was integral to me catching it,” Crystal says.

Spotting something – and getting family in on the discussion

Crystal and her family started using Marco Polo to stay in touch when Pennsylvania’s stay-at-home order took effect in March 2020.

Tracking the spot’s progression as she connected with friends and family members alerted Crystal to the fact that it might be more than just a freckle or a scrape.

“You know how it goes on Marco Polo – as you’re thinking of things to say, you’re checking yourself out a little,” she says. “That isn’t something I normally would do, but when you’re recording a Polo, it’s just you in that moment. And it so happened that in my lighting, and on this app, I could see this little mark.”

She started asking family members what they thought. “It’s been hanging out there – should I get it checked?”

Yes, they advised. Better safe than sorry.

Early detection meant less invasive treatment

After an initial telehealth consult followed by a biopsy, Crystal’s dermatologist confirmed the diagnosis of a basal cell carcinoma. Because the cancer was on Crystal’s face, she opted to have a plastic surgeon remove it via Mohs surgery.

“Honestly, I never thought I’d be going to a plastic surgeon in my lifetime, but there’s a first time for everything,” she laughs.

Crystal learned that while basal cell carcinoma is not typically life-threatening, it’s likely that if she hadn’t gotten it treated as early as she did, the cancer would have spread deeper and wider.

As it was, her surgery was minimally invasive. Other than a black eye, which Crystal says made her look “kind of badass, so that’s cool,” she healed quickly, felt great, and emerged cancer-free.

Reconnection and reflection

Crystal isn’t aware of anyone else in her family who’s had skin cancer. Her dermatologist and plastic surgeon named sun damage as the likeliest culprit. As a teenager, Crystal says she hit the tanning bed religiously.

And while she’s not sure when the spot first appeared, she did a little sleuthing in preparation for sharing her Marco Polo story with Inside Edition. While selecting photos to share with the network, she zoomed in on a beach shot from her 40th birthday trip to Cabo San Lucas. Sure enough, the spot was there, and she’d never noticed – underscoring the role Marco Polo played in catching it early.

Posting her semi-cautionary “Hey – true story!” tale on social media also resulted in a happy by-product: reconnection. Crystal found out that many friends and family members she’d fallen out of touch with were also using Marco Polo. Now, they all had a brand new way to reconnect.

For that, too, she’s grateful to Marco Polo.