Years ago I would let the sun burn my skin, using baby oil as sun lotion and vinegar and lemon for my blonde hair – to lighten in the sun.
I got burned one day in 2004 sitting round the pool in Las Vegas didn’t think I was was getting a tan, so didn’t bother with sun lotion but I burnt real bad. I was like a lobster. A few days later I noticed a little light freckle on my chest and never bothered with it after that.
2010 was on holiday again and noticed it a tiny bit more but still choose to ignore it, by 2013 it seemed darker but I still thought it’s normal.
Then came my honeymoon in September 2016 in Cyprus, I was only using factor 10, 8, 6. Yeah I got a lovely tan, but I noticed my freckles had changed quite a bit. My husband Richie said I should get that checked out. But I thought ‘yeah yeah,’ not bothering about it but I did keep looking at it.
Then again in May 2017 – walking along the sea front, I caught the sun quite bad. I had no sun lotion on again and this time it started to hurt. I felt like it had a spot under it. Again I choose to ignore it. A friend at work kept telling me to get it checked. I just said yeah I will.
That year in June I had an accident at work and fell. I was back and forth to the doctors for checks on my healing. In till one doctor, while examining me said “what is that? how long you had it for?” I said it’s nothing – just a freckle which I think turned into a mole. She examined it a bit more, shook her head then asked if I had anyone in the waiting room for me, or could i ring anyone. I said no, my husband is at work – what is it? I’m strong, I’ll be fine. She then said I am sorry, I can’t let you leave the surgery until I get you hospital appointment. It looks like you have cancer. CANCER, No! It’s just a freckle. I remember going home and ringing Richie at work – telling him they made a mistake and that everything will be fine.
Within 24 hrs I was at the hospital been operated on – having my freckle removed. They said we will give you an appointment for next Friday for results. But I got a phone call on the Wednesday – asking if I’d go in the next day to see them, they don’t have my results but just want to have a chat.
Then I knew something wasn’t right, but still kept a brave face – trying to tell myself different. From what I can remember that morning, I was walking into the doctors office, then sitting holding Richie’s hand and him saying again “I’m here for you – no matter what, we will get through this together. I am not letting anything happen to you,” then the doctor came into the room. She said “I have a nurse who is going to come out and talk you through some stuff” and then she said we got your results. My stomach dropped I knew what she was going to say. I had cancer. I squeezed Richie’s hand and the words were – spreading malignant melanoma. Then my ears started buzzing, feeling like I was going to be sick and faint. I couldn’t hear a word she was saying apart from my own words. it felt like a life time to say I’m going be sick, faint! I went into shock and things were blurred.
I remember seeing a nurse coming running through. They got me onto a bed and started rubbing my arms and legs to get the blood flowing. it was like pains and needles going right through my body. I saw Richie getting pulled away from me, behind the curtain. They were asking who in my family had had a history of cancer. He couldn’t answer her bless him, he just didn’t wanna leave go of my hand.
She asked about family members – I just couldn’t think. then she went through some booklets, telling us about all the support and help we were going to need. She even showed me her own scar. I was told I would need another operation.
That day was my worse day ever. I was thinking – am I going to die? I’ve just not long got married, what am I going to say to people? How can I tell my family. Everything was just such a rush.
I tried many times to pick booklets up and read them – I couldn’t! I broke down, pushed people away. I didn’t wanna have people around me. I wanted to let them remember me how I was and not how I am now.
Then my letter came through for my next op 2 weeks after my first one. This one was the worst one. The day I left the hospital I had a high temperature and already had an infection still from my last op. I ended up back in hospital the day after my op. They found another infection and I also have allergies towards the dressings they use. They gave me plenty of painkillers and penicillin. I can’t remember how many courses I had. I remember having to sleep with a tight fitted bra on 24 hours a day -because of where it was and my skin was stretching.
I haven’t had an easy time healing and have returned to hospital for help with it – but I have learned my lesson. I am so scared incase it happens again. For now I feel like I am living on the edge and waiting for it to happen again. I try to tell people so they don’t make the same mistake as me, but they don’t bother. So all I can say to them is – walk a day in my shoes and you will see how hard it has been and if it wasn’t for support from my family friends, most of all my husband Richie – I wouldn’t be where I am today.
I still cry but that’s normal and I now have my fighters scar. I got the news that there was no more cancer left in the area still hard to accept I had cancer.
Thank you for sharing your story Sandra. Showing how important it is to protect yourself in the sun and being vigilant with any changes.