We’re not invincible; too often we think we are! So my advice; is know yourself and trust your gut feeling.
How many times have you said that? How many times have you heard that? We’re not invincible; too often we think we are! So my advice; is know yourself and trust your gut feeling. Listen to your body and for crying out loud if something isn’t right get it checked.
As I sit down to write this, my body is already going into fight mode. I am clammy, scared, and have a stomach full of knots. Why? Because my story is real, I was diagnosed with a malignant melanoma about eight years ago; I am so honoured and overwhelmed to be an ambassador for the Melanoma Foundation as I want to spread my story as far as I can to grow the awareness around melanomas.
I am a happy go lucky, smile on my dial, always looking at the bright side of life kinda kid. In 2006 at the age of 22 I was diagnosed with a malignant melanoma. What does that mean? Cancer. A word that petrifies me to say; I have been around and lost very sadly family and friends to cancer, so I feel like an imposter even saying the word because my story has a sensational out come. BUT my story has a very serious lesson; one that right now (typing this) has brought me to tear. Those fearful two words…What if?
What if; I did nothing? What if; I pretended that is was ok? What if; I never researched skin cancer? What if; I had waited….these questions haunt me. But they also ground me, they make me want to shake people that say, I am scared. I don’t want to know the truth, what if; it is bad? Bad new can still mean you may catch it in time. And I did.
My Melanoma had spread wide, not too deep so at 0.71mm deep I apparently the ‘better kind.’
So here I am, 22 years old, blonde hair, blue eyes, never been one to sun bake. My parents always looked after us in the sun. I was the girl at Schoolies (along with my best mate), to sit on the beach with our sombreros, sunnies, sunscreen and a long tops on. While others basked in the sun, we walked home to sit inside and chill out! Yep I was the ‘sunsmart’ kid, ask any of my mates!
Only old photos tell the story now but through out my life I always had a freckle/mole on my left temple. Now that we look back, when I was younger it was small and light brown nothing to be ‘worried about.’ As I got older, the mole on my temple grew and it got darker and darker. Now I look back, there were signs, small ones but they were there. The fact that the mole was on my face meant I saw it everyday, it was ‘normal,’ it was kind of my trade mark. Sometimes I hated it, case it was there an people would look at it but I got use to it.One day something changed, mainly my gut feeling. That churning sick feeling, I knew something was wrong. However, like many people I ignored it for months, I didn’t tell anyone. I was scared shitless it was bad news…but surely not a melanoma? I talked my self out of it…It wont happen to me I said….
One day I mentioned to someone that I was concerned and that day it became real to me…I was worried and this was a real feeling. My mole has changed, it was big and dark…it started to get a little itchy and flaky. I will never forget telling mum that I thought something was wrong, she was incredibly prompt in calling the doctor and we had it checked. The doctor was concerned but not overly worried. So again I told my self I was ok and we booked a specialist appointment for a month later. However, that night I remember feeling sick within every fibre of my body, something was wrong with me and I wasn’t ok. So in a hysterical state of tears I asked Mum and Dad to get me an appointment with a specialist I wanted it to happen the very next day.
With a family like mine, the phones lines went crazy, my cousins, friends, friend could get me in to a dermatologist which we did. The next afternoon I had an appointment with Dr Sidhu. So I sat at work all day, feeling sick with worry. Then, I sat for what felt like hours in the Dr’s office with Mum by my side. I knew it was bas news. My whole body new! We are incredible beings and we should listen to the signed more often.
Dr Sidhu took a very close look and in a very clam tone said she would like to take a biopsy straight away. What does that even mean?
‘Well we need to take a deep tissue sample of the mole, it is very dark and I do have some concerns. I won’t know until we send it to the lab but I do think we need to do the biopsy straight away.’
So in what I can only describe as panic and shear fear of the unknown, she injected the area to numb it and took the biopsy. Then the worst part started….we waited! For two days we waited. I had no idea if it was going to be a phone call to tell me it was a nasty mole and we should remove in case or that it was a malignant melanoma. So when the phone finally rang and we were asked to come and see Dr Sidhu, it’s never going to be good news.
And it wasn’t. The melanoma was cancerous and needed to be removed asap. A lot was said in that meeting but all I remember was, we need to cut it out and make sure it hasn’t spread through your body! Sorry…WTF, I am 22 I don’t have Cancer. I cant have cancer. In the same appointment, the plastic surgeon was called at the Waymouth Street Hospital and booked in for surgery that afternoon, I was taken for a full body MRI scan to check it had not spread to my lymph nods and as Dad and I sat making small talk in the waiting room that day all I could think was…I have to be ok. I have to…this is not an option for me. I have shit to do in life, this is just a bump in the road it’s got to be! What ever the news is…I will fight the crap out of it.
So from there we went to the hospital…lying on the bed 100% conscious the surgeon talked me through what was going to happen. I was going to be awake the whole time, he was going to cut the melanoma out and take a significant depth and circumference from around the area to make sure they get everything. They then leave the wound open until the test result come back then they stich it all back up once they know they have it all. But that wouldn’t happen until the next week. So that moment I very quickly over came my fear of needles as I had 18 put into my face and the surgery started. I think it was a complete out of body moment. I wasn’t scared I don’t think but rather happy that this thing was being taken out so it couldn’t do any more damage!
Two hours later it was gone and with clear instruction on looking after the area till next week we went home. And we waited! And waited!
Every time the phone rang my heart dropped and my stomach churned. Was this the call to say, they didn’t get it all and it was all through my system and I wasn’t going to be ok. Or was this the call to say, you’re ok let’s stich you back up.
Monday afternoon the phone did ring…So everything is ok? And they got it all? And the MRI, it hasn’t gone anywhere else? Oh thankyou. Thank you so much, we’re so happy to hear that and so will Kristen I can’t wait to tell her. That was the best phone call I think I have ever over heard. I was going to be ok. They did get it all!
So whilst sitting in the waiting room, full of 65+ year olds I did have the think to my self…why me? This doesn’t make sense I have never been a sun baby, so why me? As the surgeon explained the part of the procedure I really didn’t care just stich me up and let’s do this. So again, wide awake but numbed on the left side they stitched me up. How he did it, still amazes me but with John Farnham playing on the radio being pulled and prodded sticked up with 85+ stitches I couldn’t be happier. I was ok! I had my early 20’s face lift (haha) and I was ok.
There are so many part of this story that scare me. The, what if. The, it could happen again. The sheer fact that it has happened. But for me the lesson is simple, be sun smart. Check yourself and know your body. Listen to you gut feeling. And if something is wrong get it checked out. I had three month check ups for 2 years, then six monthly for 6 year then yearly check up since. I will continue to go every year and I bet every time I go I’ll still feel sick to the stomach due to the past but as soon as Dr Sidhu says, it’s all looking great see you in a year that’s all that matters. In the mean time, I have learnt to check my self so if anything pops up…I am onto it.
Knowing is always better than not. You have a chance to fight it that way. So my advice and my story is here to say, please be sun smart and get checked.