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Karen’s Story – Touched By Melanoma Stage 1

stage 3 melanoma survivor

Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m a 54 year old woman mum of two amazing adult kids and a wife for the second time to a fantastic man. We just did a massive tree change to the country and are living life to the fullest. I just got a job working in a nursing home part-time. (Life is too short to work too many hours!)

Gardening is my place where I can chill and forget about the day and I also love crafts. I’ve travelled to many places like Thailand, Bali and Canada and now looking forward to seeing more of Australia. (Fingers crossed!)

When and how did you first find out you had Melanoma?

I had been asking for someone to take notice of the mole on my arm for a few years. But as it wasn’t black I kept getting told that it was nothing to worry about. I even went to Peter Mac where they gave it a two-second glance said nothing. But I knew something wasn’t right and didn’t give up.

When we moved to the country, I got a fifth opinion and even he said that it was nothing to worry about. It was only because of my concern that he removed it. Five days later, I received an urgent call and was told it was stage 1 melanoma and that it had to be removed in a couple of days time. He also said he needed to remove a mole on my leg which turned out to be stage 1 as well.

Is there any information that you wish you had been told when you first got diagnosed?

No, as I think personally I would have panicked and worried myself like crazy. I was told everything would be ok and that was enough for me.

What challenges did you and your family and/or friends face after your diagnosis?

I only told my kids as I didn’t want people making a fuss over things so many weren’t told till after the fact.

Tell us about your treatment.

I was lucky that Dr Atkins is a no-fuss man with a soft touch and he kept me up to date with what he would do and how much pain I would be in. He was very old school but he spoke to me like an adult without using big words that I wouldn’t be able to understand.

I’m allergic to pain relief medications and so I wasn’t able to have a general anaesthetic when they removed the moles on my arm and leg. They used needles to numb the pain and I was awake for the whole thing. I didn’t feel anything at the time, but I definitely felt it once it wore off!

The moles were removed to the bone and I now have massive scars on my arm and leg which have big dents in them. I hate them to be honest but it was the only option.

The pain and swelling took about four weeks to settle down. I had the stitches for three weeks and the ones in my leg drove me insane – they started pulling as the skin was growing over it.

I was so lucky they got it all and that no other treatment will be needed.

Is there any advice you’d like to give for someone going to their first treatment?

Keep off the internet – everyone is different and moles are so different. Stock up on some pain medication and make sure you have some heat beads as your back gets sore from trying to keep still.

If you don’t understand what the doctor is telling you – speak up. And if you are in pain – speak up.

What got you through the most challenging times?

My husband and knowing I wasn’t alone through the day. Having a team to ring you and pop in does help so don’t be scared to ask for help.

How has melanoma cancer affected your outlook on life?

I’m a person that will now never be able to go into the sun. I’m scared it will happen again so I’m doing everything I can to look good with pale skin and find shady spots to sit in!

I speak up tell more people to check their moles three times a year.

Do you have a motto or personal mantra?

If in doubt… check it out!

I’m happiest when…

I’m not in pain.

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