🦋 Alice’s Story 🦋
My obsession with looking tanned began when I was a teen. I’m definitely from the false tan generation but that didn’t stop from experimenting with sunbeds.
Just to clarify, I didn’t have an obsession with actual sunbeds, or lying for hours in my back garden or even on holiday to get a cracking tan. I just liked to see my freckles and have tan lines.
As a teenager, on holiday I burned. My Mam used to lather me in Factor 50 but somehow I’d still burn. I remember thinking it was SO UNFAIR because my Mam tanned lovely.
When I’d cottoned on to the fact sunbeds would give me a great ‘base tan’ meaning I wouldn’t burn on holiday, (and I was old enough to use sunbeds) and it actually worked, every year, a month before my holiday, I would use a sunbed. Not every day, every couple of days. I must stress, I was not a regular user, just occasionally if you can call it that.
I loved the results from sunbeds, so for the last three years, that’s what I’ve always done. No more burns! I should have known it was too good to be true.
We’re warned as we grow up about the risks associated with sunbed use but my frame of mind, which I’m completely embarrassed to admit now, was that ‘well people drink alcohol and alcohol can contribute to cancer, therefore sunbeds are just another risk we take every day.’
I’m genuinely mortified writing this, that I thought like that but it’s the attitude many young women and men have. Unfortunately, I’m not the only one and that NEEDS to change.
I have moles almost everywhere on my body, freckles, moles, raised moles and I’ve always been aware of them. Checking them, looking at the colour of them, shape of them, you catch my drift. And then one changed.
It was actually a mole on my breast that had dramatically got bigger first and it was around the time I got a breast enlargement, therefore the only explanation was that it had simply stretched with my skin. Just to be on the safe side, I went to the doctors who agreed it may just have stretched but she still referred me to a specific dermatology department within Sunderland Hospital for a second opinion.
I went along to the clinic, met a nurse who agreed it was benign too, so all was well. The nurse referred me for another appointment in six months times so off I went and continued to use sunbeds.
Fast forward six months, I went to the appointment at the beginning of last year and on the offchance saw a student nurse who was a little new to the department and asked for a second opinion from a Doctor as the one on my breast had grown slightly. He asked whether they’d taken photographers from previous times, she said no just measurements, therefore I was then referred to Durham University Hospital to there dermatology department to meet another Doctor and get photos taken of all of the moles on my body, just to be safe.
I wasn’t worried, or even apprehensive in the slightest. The appointment went well, the mole on my breast really had just stretched with my implant, however, he did point out and notice a raised mole on the side of my face which he said in his words ‘he wasn’t too concerned about.’ Therefore I went off to have my photographs taken and given an appointment for six weeks time.
Again, fast forward again to six weeks time, which brings us to the end November last year where I saw a different nurse this time, still at Durham University Hospital though, who agreed the mole on my breast was fine however the one of my face, she was a little worried about.
Luckily, the doctor I’d previously seen had a spare five minutes and came in to have a look at me. He agreed with the nurse, there had been a change in the mole on my face. It had changed colour and shape a little bit, therefore, it needed to come off, to my horror.
I know this sounds stupid but I love the mole on my face but I know it’s better to be safe than sorry. So, I’ll be having the mole removed on Monday. Thanks to the amazing doctors at Durham, I was able to meet a plastic surgeon for the removal so fingers crossed there won’t be a big scar!
Fingers crossed I’ll be fine, I’ll keep you all updated once I’ve had it removed. Honestly, it’s not worth it. Just fake it!
Alice went on to say she was inspired to share her story to also raise awareness after reading Amanda’s article in the Sunderland echo and in her own words… There needs to be one big spotlight on Melanoma so more young people like me, I am only 21 and it can happen to me. Young people (and old!) need to understand what it is and how we can protect our skin. Here in Sunderland we’re lucky enough to have the charity MelanomaMe and on their website, I found out so much about Melanoma and it needs to be shared.
Thank you Alice for kindly offering to share your story in a bid to help raise awareness of the dangers of sunbeds, sun burn and the importance of checking your skin. We wish you well for your upcoming surgery and a speedy recovery and good results.
🦋 Melanie’s story. 🦋
See that on my thumb? Do you know what it is? Its skin cancer. This grew from nothing in a matter of weeks. I thought it was just a fungal infection or a wart. Sadly not. I’ve been lucky, the cancer hasnt spread and it’s being removed next week along with half of my thumb. This may have not been the case if I’d left it and not got it checked out. I don’t want your sympathy, I want more awareness. Therefore, please go and get any changes or growths on your skin checked out, please tell people around you to get checked as well. Dont leave it to chance or make excuses! I will be fighting fit in no time but if I’d left it, I may have been losing more than a thumb. So please, don’t leave comments about how brave I am or how sorry you are, instead take that time to share this or tell someone they need to get checked or make that phone call to the doctors for yourself………Ps. If anyone knows where I can get a mini hook attachment for my stubby thumb give me a shout! 😆
🦋 Awareness and education is so important! Early detection literally saves lives. Thanks Melanie for sharing your story.
🦋🦋💕 Lisa – My Story
Life was good, I was in the process of holding my very 1st ‘Tried and Tested’ event. Tickets were sold out and the pressure was on. ‘Tried and Tested’ was a Facebook online beauty group which had gone viral over night.
I have hundreds of moles and was foolish when I was younger, slapping on the factor 2 oil and having those pre holiday sunbeds for that ‘base tan.’ Before that I even had my own. I was a dancer you see and part of looking good in your costumes, was having a tan.
Once I had my children I started to take a little more care although I was still not a vigilant with my own skin as I should have been.
Due to my large number of moles I was put into the system for regular checks at hospital and started to take sun safety seriously. I had many moles removed all returning benign to my relief.
May 2015 would change my life forever. I found out I had malignant melanoma and it rocked my world. I was to then find out the severity of the disease doing research and helping raise awareness. It scared me to death. Lucky for me I was stage one and it had been caught early. Another operation to painfully remove extra tissue around the melanoma site was needed to make sure it was fully removed. 2 days later the show had to go on and I emotionally got through my event I had worked so hard to put together. It was a roaring success. I remember my dress was made for me and it unfortunately revealed the large incision on my back. No one knew as I managed to keep it under wraps. I was fragile and just needed to get through the event. I anxiously waited to hear if they had indeed got all the cancer. It took weeks! ..so long that I thought something was wrong. At my appointment they apologised for the delay, there had been a discrepancy, on removal of the extra tissue they had in fact removed another mole ( no surprise ) but it clouded the results as it looked like more abnormal cells. I was glad however to find out it had all successfully been removed, I would now move onto 3 x monthly checks and life would carry on as normal.
Life never is normal after that and anyone who has been diagnosed understands. I am high risk and it was explained my melanoma would no doubt return, however they will do all in their power to catch it. It’s always there, the wondering is something growing? what if they miss it? I have so many to check.
Friday 18th August 2017 was going to be the day when I would hear those chilling words again.. “so sorry Mrs Guthrie but you have malignant melanoma”. 3 weeks previous to this I had had my first two moles removed since my diagnosis, It was precaution. There had been a few changes but nothing my naked eye would notice. No typical symptoms either. I could not believe I was back in this situation just over 2 years later. The worry, the sleepless nights waiting for the results. I got the phone call to say I had to go in for an appointment, I knew it was bad results, as unfortunately I know the system. A letter is good and an appointment, well that’s bad!. But how bad? How bad would it be? Will it be worse? Will I survive it? What stage is it? Has it entered my lymph nodes? Your mind goes crazy!. I was told I had stage 1 melanoma, They had caught it early again thankfully. This was a feeling of relief and happiness. It felt strange to be happy that although you have been told devastating news that the cancer was back, your relieved that you’re going to win the fight!. Another operation was needed straight away to, like before to remove more tissue. As I was being prepped nurse Carol (my angel sent from heaven) asked to just give me another once over checking my body from head to toe. Another suspect mole was found and was ordered to be removed at the same time.
As I write this I’m sore, emotionally drained but so damn grateful. Yes I am awaiting more results but I feel strong. There are so many more people worse off than me and some of the stories are just devastating. More has to be done to raise awareness and educate people on the severity of skin cancer.
Melanoma is the fastest spreading deadliest form.
of skin cancer, although I was stage 1, I was 0.5 of a mm of being stage 2. I am eternally grateful to my nurse Carol and the team at Durham University Hospital for looking after me so closely and catching it early.
This is a way of life for me now. It is a dark cloud that will follow me forever waiting for the next diagnosis, all because I wanted a tan!. A tan that fades within days and ages your skin terribly too. It’s just not worth it. Stay sun safe, use high factors and please do not ever use tanning beds. If you notice any changes in your skin be sure to get it checked immediately.
This is my story, a story to raise awareness and If it stops one person using tanning beds then I’m happy. Stay sun safe people and fake it don’t bake it. Lisa
Thank you for sharing your journey with us Lisa. You have raised awareness to the dangers of ‘getting that tan’ hopefully this awareness help others make better choices in protecting themselves from this awful cancer.
🦋🦋 Carrie ❤️
Carrie is a 38 year old mum to Tom, and has enjoyed the sun all of her life. She is naturally dark skinned and dark haired and never considered herself at risk of melanoma, due to never burning.
Carrie’s story began earlier this year when her hairdresser highlighted a suspicious lesion on her ear. Carrie attended her GP and was told to keep an eye on it for changes, but he wasn’t worried.
The mole was again noticed at her next appointment at her hairdressers and this time her GP did refer Carrie on to dermatology.
It was agreed that although the dermatologist wasn’t too concerned, the mole would be biopsied.
Carrie’s surgery involved cutting a piece out of her ear and then pulled together to be stitched into a neat thin line.
Carrie was told the horrific news that histology had confirmed superficial spreading Malignant Melanoma of 0.86mm. This sounds a tiny amount, but as a Melanoma doesn’t have to invade too far to have open access to her blood system, it was a huge cause for concern.
She is currently booked in for her wide local excision which involves taking another large piece of her ear away. This is to confirm that all of the cancer cells have been removed.
Carrie wanted to share her story for a few reasons.
1. To raise awareness. Melanoma does not just ‘happen’ to people with fair skin. Everyone is at risk.
2. To highlight the importance of our hairdressers, beauty therapists, holistic therapists, physiotherapists etc in the early detection of Malignant Melanoma. People who work in these industries are able to see parts of the body that we are not, such as ears, neck, back, scalp, head, shoulders etc.
Awareness saves lives and thank god for Carrie’s hairdresser. Without her she wouldn’t have had a clue that Melanoma was sitting on her ear waiting to cause heartache for Carrie and her family.
Carrie recently went through surgery on 9th August 2017 ❤️
Thank you for sharing your story Carrie. Shows the importance of the beauty industry being aware of Melanoma
Michele Walker ❤️❤️❤️
Thursday 20th February 2014 is a day my family and I will never forget; hearing the words “you have cancer” are life changing. I was diagnosed with stage 2 malignant melanoma, an aggressive, reoccurring form of skin cancer.
If I’m honest I didn’t realise how serious this form of cancer is, like many, I thought “it’s only skin cancer, I’ll be fine” sadly this is not true.
I went to the doctors in September 2013, as I was about to leave I asked the doctor if he would mind having a look at a mole in the middle of my back, just above my bra line, fortunately for me he measured it and asked me to keep an eye on it, any more problems I was to go back. I had a follow up appointment with my usual doctor about 6 weeks later about another matter. My mole was itchy and I asked her to have another look at it. As the previous doctor had measured it she could quickly tell it had grown; she said she would refer me to see the dermatologist as a precaution as it looked ok.
I had an appointment through quite quickly, I saw the same nurse I had seen in 2002 who checked the very same mole. She looked at it through the dermascope and again said it looked fine, but, as it was sat on my bra line and causing a bit of irritation, she would get it removed. I had an appointment for 19th December to have the mole removed, due to a gruelling work schedule and that no one was concerned I cancelled the appointment and re booked for 20th January.
I went to the hospital to have the mole removed; the consultants final words were “I will be very surprised if there is anything wrong with that”; I left feeling a little light headed and woozy. I went into Boots the chemist to get a few dressings on my way back to work, while I was stood in the queue to pay I passed out, splat on the floor! It was so embarrassing; the staff in boots were amazing and the paramedics who were called to check me over. My husband came to the rescue and took me home to recover. I should have known then that things were amiss!
It was February half term and I was enjoying some time off with my girls, I’d missed a couple of unknown number calls on the Tuesday, Wednesday morning I received another call and fortunately answered it. It was consultant’s secretary and asked me to attend an appointment the following day at 9.30am. I knew then it was bad news. I felt sick, called my husband and made arrangements for my mum to look after my 2 girls overnight so I didn’t have the worry of getting them to her early the next day.
Thursday 20th February 2014 is still a day that I remember every detail and feeling I went through, I can’t remember all of the conversations; as soon as I heard the word “cancer” and “stage 2” I zoned out. My husband was with me and in a state of shock too, all he could do was hold me, which he did to comfort us both.
During the next month I had many tests and follow up appointments to prepare me for surgery where I had a large amount of skin and tissue removed from my tumour site on my back. My surgery went well and I recovered at home with the love and support of my friends and family, I was literally not able to do anything for 3 weeks due to the risk of bursting my stitches; for those of you who know me this was incredibly frustrating!
4 days after my surgery I turned 40, not quite how I had imagined spending my 40th birthday, but hey I was alive!
A CT scan at the end of March showed irregularities on my lung, liver and ovaries, there were concerns my cancer had spread. I was told that I would have to have another scan in 6-8 weeks to see if any of the irregularities had grown indicating that the cancer had spread. If the cancer had spread to my organs, at this time there was very little in the way of treatment options and currently there is no cure for melanoma.
In the only way I felt able to cope, I began putting my life in order. I started planning my funeral, writing birthday cards for my beautiful daughters (my husband is useless choosing a birthday card, standing joke in our house) buying special gifts for my girls for their 18th, 21st and their weddings and of course a list of things to help my husband bring up our girls as a widower.
A lot of tears were shed and a lot of honest conversations were had (usually in my kitchen with a glass of wine).
After more tests over the next 6 months I finally heard the words I was dreaming of, the irregularities that had shown up were not cancer; such a huge relief, I cannot put into words the emotional rollercoaster journey having a cancer diagnose is.
I took the decision in August 2014 to move my care to The Churchill Hospital in Oxford, they have a specialist team who are at the cutting edge of trials and new treatment therapies, due to the experience I had with my initial hospital trust, I lost faith and trust, this, for me, I felt, was so important.
3 years on from my diagnosis I am still NED, no evidence of disease. I had 3 monthly skin checks up until my last appointment in April 2017 and I am now on 6 monthly checks ( BTW – yes you get naked, but hey I’m sure they’ve seen it all !!! any excuse to buy nice new underwear J) continue to have blood tests and scans where required to check nothing has grown and investigate any new lumps and bumps. I have also had a couple of other moles removed that looked suspicious and these have turned out to be dysplastic moles, they have the potential to turn into melanoma. But, I’m healthy and I’m very much alive.
My cancer diagnose has changed my perspective in life, and has changed me as a person; the last 3 years have taught me to never take things for granted, cherish the things you love and have hope that one day a cure will be found.
If anyone reading my story has a suspicious looking mole, blemish, lump or pain please go to your doctor, you know your body better than anyone; if you are not happy go back. I am glad I did, if I hadn’t it would be quite likely my children would not have a mother and my husband would be a widower.
I dedicate my story to the angels that are now flying high, looking over us, who were taken by this dreadful disease.
Melanoma in not “just” skin cancer, please protect your skin.
Thank you for sharing your story Michele and you’re so right – if in doubt get it checked out.
Amanda’s story ❤️❤️
CANCER and my Melanoma story: don’t worry, it’s nothing serious; it’s just skin cancer!
My rollercoaster adventure began back in the noughties, although it probably began as a child using Nivea cold cream to soothe reddened skin from the annual Butlin’s holidays to the South Coast and the many fabulous days spent at South Shields and our many lovely Northeast beaches. Truth be known, the real damage was done getting a ‘healthy base tan’ on a sunbed in my teens and early 20s. But don’t worry, I was lucky, I just got skin cancer, cut it out and shrug it off!
I am really ‘lucky’ that despite my fair skin, blonde hair (before I was robbed of it with intensive double dosage radiotherapy to my poor brain) and blue eyes, I actually tanned (deliberate use of the past tense) really easily and rarely burned; although I ‘caught’ my shoulders and chest a few times over my carefree younger years of late teens and early 20s, when everyone knows you are invincible.
Do you know what caused my current precarious situation? A pesky little mole on my right ankle. January 2011, at an unrelated GP appointment, I mentioned to my life-saving Dr (he took it serious, not all do!!) about a mole that seemed to be itching more and occasionally bleeding. He booked me for an urgent referral (this is 2 weeks under NICE NHS guidelines) to the dermatology unit at UHND. Not really thinking too much about this, I went along alone to the appointment. The Registrar examined it several times looking more perturbed each time he looked until he sought the opinion of his consultant who took one look at it and said “prep her for surgery; that needs to come off NOW” From her reaction, and other staff coming to see, I kept getting that look you get when things aren’t good – a mix of sympathy and fear – I have had too many of those now to not instantly recognise it.
Results came back – malignant melanoma – but hey that’s ok because they had cut it out. “It’s just skin cancer” A full and intimate body check ensued during the receiving of the “you’ve got cancer” meeting; apparently you can get melanoma ANYWHERE on your body, inside and out. I have the scars to prove it. I needed to have further surgery to remove another 3 suspicious lesions (abnormal looking moles) and also further surgery to the original mole excision to ensure they got it all (which they did) and it needed a skin graft (extremely unpleasant and not recommended – sun cream is far less painful) which required a hospital stay of 6 days, a wheelchair, Zimmer frame, crutches, one year physio, and 3 months off work unpaid with permanent scarring and nerve damage as its legacy.
I had 2 further surgeries that year with more suspicious lesions removed. Luckily, they were all benign but the anxiety and waiting for results was and still is no easier to endure. Fast forward to January 2013, a suspicious brown streak appeared on my big toe of my right foot, so off that came too – nailbed biopsy – ouch!
Then *drum roll* everything settled down and I continued with my 3 monthly follow ups at hospital (and continued my own monthly lymph node and skin checks at home) which were always clear and despite the anxiety leading up to the appointments, I became a little blasé and dared to get on with my life, always wearing SPF50, no longer blasé with the sun. Roll on January 2016 and I had my final check-up, all clear and so was discharged TOTALLY CANCER FREE! Woo hoo.
Life is a rollercoaster so they say, and one year ago I was back on that rollercoaster, whether I wanted to or not. Don’t panic though “It’s just skin cancer” if it comes back, they can just “cut it out” and all will be fine! Apparently not.
I found a lump. I hoped and prayed it was a hernia. Dr Google confirmed it could be but also suggested testicular cancer, and as a young woman I felt this may be stretching belief slightly. Our wonderful NHS really stepped up to the mark for me; I had examinations, blood tests scans, painful biopsy and then the news. I knew it was bad, every time you get ‘the look’ you just know! But how bad…couldn’t they just cut it out??? It’s just skin cancer, said no melanoma patient ever!! I had gone from stage 1b to cancer free to stage 4 – incurable/advanced/terminal in an instant. My life changed forever in that moment. Not only had it invaded my pelvis and groin and abdominal wall but it had gone to my lungs, 6 tumours!! I was booked in for major surgery with a view to starting to treatment to target the lung tumours (too many for surgery) once recovered. 5 days in hospital this time around and then months of recovery and post-operative complications of lymphedema and pulmonary embolus and DVT as a bonus prize.
Fast forward to May 2017, Melanoma awareness month and I have been on treatment which has worked miracles on my lungs (a later scan before starting treatment showed they were multiplying rapidly and there were too many to count) not without a few scary moments, many scans, a few emergency admissions, some unpleasant procedures and hospital stays but I am still here one year later. My lungs are doing well and the drugs have shrunk the tumours and only one is visible now. However, as it’s incurable, they can only shrink and keep from multiplying; a holding pattern before it mutates, changes shape and begins to grow and multiply again. That’s a problem for another day.
Side effects have subsided a little and in January this year, I started back at my fitness group, doing modified versions of HIIT classes. Sadly, in February my scan showed that the melanoma had gotten itself nice and comfy and made lots of melanoma babies in my precious brain – MY BIGGEST FEAR had come to realisation. Too many (at least 7 sizeable) tumours for specialist radiosurgery (less invasive) and microscopic tumours all over the lining of my brain. It makes sense really, your skin is your biggest organ and it is already in your brain. Imagine some pesky little testicular cancer cells, knocking on the door to your brain to be in! Go away, you don’t belong here!! But melanoma is already there, it’s in your skin cells, it’s like a back stage pass!! So, my melanoma groupies have made their way in and quite comfortable. Reluctant to leave the party and causing me all sorts of worrying symptoms while they’re having a blast. So, without too much time to think, I started an intensive course of whole brain radiation therapy (prognosis for melanoma brain metastases is approx. 4 -5 months survival so I had no time waste) double dosage as they wanted me to continue with the targeted chemotherapy that is keeping my lungs in check during treatment which is not normally recommended because of the effects. However, I completed this on 1 March and am still really struggling with the after effects. I am a very naturally positive person but I feel completely heartbroken that my life is so precarious right now; three weeks ago I had a mini stroke attack caused from brain swelling. A tumour bleed in the brain could take my life in an instant. I have to wait another month to find out if it looks like the treatment may have worked. I may not be eligible for further treatment with active brain metastases. Without wanting to sound too dramatic, my life is hanging in the balance.
Oh how I wish I had taken my skin and my life more serious, spf30 and NO SUNBEDS could have prevented my situation. I am high risk by skin type and I ignored it. When I am gone, my wonderful husband, my amazing talented children who are 10 and 11 and should not be in this situation, and my beautiful family and friends will be left to deal with my unnecessary early passing. It feels so unfair, but it is what it is. I have and am taking the opportunity to not take things for granted and have a list of memory making to work through. If you take anything from my story, please let it be to protect your skin and your family and friends by avoiding sunbeds and applying sunscreen, even on cloudy days. Melanoma kills. It’s not just skin cancer.
Thanks for listening
Thank you so much for sharing Amanda, you are a brave lady. I’m sure your story will raise much needed awareness
It’s with a sad heart we share the news that the lovely Amanda has lost her battle to Melanoma. We send our deepest condolences to all her family and friends. R.I.P. Amanda ❤️
Tracey’s story ⭐️⭐️
I follow your page and can I just say well done for raising the awareness of Melanoma… before I was diagnosed I didn’t know anything about it. You are doing a great job 👍
Here is my story, I would like to share it with you.
I had a mole on the back of my left leg for at least a few year. As it was on the back/top half of my leg it never really bothered me until early last year it started to get sore and itchy. I thought it was it was catching on the edge of the chair so didn’t do anything. Then in July I went to Cyprus on holiday and one day even though I rarely sunbathe due to being fair skinned decided to lie on my front… as soon as the sun hit my mole it hurt!!! That was it I decided I was going to get it checked.
I finally went to the doctors in September and mentioned my mole .. within minutes after her checking it I had a 2 week urgent referral for suspected Melanoma. I never gave it a thought, (I even said to my partner the doctor was just been over precautious). I got my appt to see the dermatologist who decided he needed to have it removed to have it checked. In October I had the mole removed under local anaesthetic at Durham hospital as was now under the plastic surgery team. I waited 5 weeks for the results and was told I had stage 1b Malignant Melanoma… I was so shocked as I never go out in the sun and don’t use sun beds!! I was offered an operation to have 2cm of skin removed round the original area and also to have a sentinel node biopsy to see if the cancer had spread!! I had this done end of November and in December again for more bad news, the biopsy came back as positive but my skin was clear!! I asked my consultant what my options were .. his reply was to have a lymph node groin dissection and have a full body CT scan. As I didn’t really want to have another op I asked for the scan first. This was done in between Christmas and New Year. The results came back as clear. As it was clear I thought about the op was needed but after speaking to family and friends agreed to have it done so had the groin dissection in January, I’m not going to lie, the few after wasn’t great but stayed as strong and as positive as I could.
A couple of weeks later I got my results, All I heard was the word positive … Arghhh
I never thought I was ever going to hear those words ‘negative’ . Again I asked my options and was advised this time a pelvic dissection- this was done in March. And last month I got the news we all want to hear ‘negative’.
The last few months have been an emotional roller coaster but I was determined to kick cancers butt and get through this. I’m not out of the woods yet but at this moment in time there is no visible evidence of it!! I now have lymphodema which I’m having regular appointments to manage it and also now have to have skin checks every 3 months and I’m starting to look like a patchwork quilt but I would rather have the scars, it’s a reminder how strong I’ve been.
And to anyone who has a mole and are unsure about it get it checked, I’m pleased I did.
Thanks so much Tracey you are very brave to share, must be such a difficult unsure time, please lean on us for support we are here for you.
Rosie’s story ⭐️⭐️
I have never been a person obsessed with tanning, in fact I have never used a sun bed in my life. As a teen, I would always sit in the shade on holiday and generally looked after my skin really well. I do have fair skin and light hair, so I was aware of the risks and was careful.
At the age of 21 I noticed a small mole on the back of my upper arm when I would stretch my arms up in a mirror etc and for some reason just thought it was odd. When I say small, it was probably 1mm in diameter but it was so dark that it almost looked black – which compared to my other moles was really abnormal. It would always be scabbed over and occasionally bled when I caught it. I asked my family and a couple of friends for an opinion and the general reaction I was getting would be “oh it’s nothing, it’s tiny.. don’t worry about it.”
One day I was at the doctors for another reason and just thought I would mention it on the end of my appointment. The doctor referred me to the dermatology clinic at the hospital. She didn’t seem too concerned but did it for precautionary reasons. Once there I met with a senior dermatology specialist. He did a dermoscope check and confirmed that I should probably have it removed so that they can test it.
About a month or so later, I had the mole removed under local anaesthetic which was pretty quick and easy, and left a 1cm scar on my arm. It didn’t bother me too much and I thought that was the end of it. I was called back in a couple of weeks later and taken into a room with around 5 members of staff and immediately knew it wasn’t good before I even got my results. They confirmed it was malignant melanoma and that I needed further tissue taking to see whether it had spread to my lymph nodes. Within 5 minutes, I was taken into a room where my mouth was swabbed for the operation and I had to strip down to my underwear so they could do a full body search. This was all a lot to take in within the space of 10 minutes, however I went into survival mode, and was just focusing on doing whatever needed to be done to get rid of it.
It was around 6 weeks later that I had the further tissue taken and it gives you a lot of thinking time in between which wasn’t great for my mental state. However, the procedure was fine overall and also done under local anaesthetic. I got the results that the tissue was clear and that the melanoma hadn’t spread which was amazing. I then had a checkup and full body scan every 3 months for a year following that. It’s now 6 years later and I’m always conscious and aware of the fact that I need to be careful in the sun, but I’m also not letting it rule my life and I think that’s important. I have a hefty scar on my arm but I don’t mind it, and it’s also a reminder of how strong my body was to beat it.
It’s scary being told you have cancer at the age of 21 but it’s made me stronger for sure. I now go for an annual check up at my local private hospital, mainly just to put my own mind at rest! I would say, if you’re ever unsure – just get it checked. You know your body better than anyone else and our intuition is often doing us a favour!
Thanks so much Rosie for sharing your story, it’s so important that Melanoma is brought into the light. It CAN and DOES happen to EVERY age group.
Hi my name is Tracey
I’ve had skin cancer a few times over the years my first skin cancer was a Basel cell carcinoma which I’ve had about 4 removed over the years. While these are not life threatening there are disfiguring. My mole was found by my sister zipping up a dress when she pointed out to me a mole on my back that looked strange. Went to doctors and was referred to skin specialist. That day the consultant said they would remove the mole as it did look strange. The day l had to go back to the hospital l wouldn’t let anyone come l reassured them it was fine, but really l knew what they would tell me. I went along to be told l had a melanoma 1B which meant it had invaded the tissue so they would have to do another operation to remove more skin. Which was done a couple of weeks later. The strange thing is l work in a hospice looking after people who are terminal with there cancer. We do have patients who come in who have not caught there melanoma early. I have a 3 monthly check tomorrow and another Basel cell carcinoma to look at so it never goes away. Stay safe think before you tan because it’s my fault l have this because l loved sun beds and the sun. Hope this brings someone some help. ❤️❤️❤️❤️
Thanks so much Tracey for sharing story, we are here to support you.
Raising awareness to the dangers of sun beds can help save lives.