Tell us a little about yourself
I’m a physiotherapist and author, who works in the Hunter Valley in NSW. I grew up in the hills of Perth, WA. I swam competitively until my late teens (mostly outdoor pools), and after graduation from university, I left Perth and moved to the Pilbara Region of WA. I lived and worked there for sixteen years. During that time, I met my husband, and we had two marvellous children. As you can imagine, I spent years in the sun
When and how did you first find out you had melanoma?
In 2017, I had a skin check, and the doctor said: “Keep an eye on that, that, and that one.”
I went back to the doctor, who took another look, and said: “Yes, we’ll take that off.” He did an excisional biopsy. I didn’t really think much of it. But when I went back a week later for him to check my stitches, as I sat down, he said “Now, your pathology’s back. Unfortunately, it’s a melanoma….BUT it’s the best type you can have!”
He then explained that it was a ‘melanoma in situ’ or stage 0 melanoma. He explained I would need a wide excision to make sure that all the margins were clear, and that the chance of recurrence would be minimised. He also explained that with such an early catch, it was likely I’d never have another problem. He then provided me with all the surgery paperwork (he prefers to do wide excisions under anaesthetic) and an MPA pamphlet.
He also explained that I would have a scar, and probably a bit of an indentation on the back of my thigh.
I was not really thinking too much to start with, except – MELANOMA!
Tell us about your treatment
About six weeks later, I had the wide excision. The surgeon removed 1cm around and underneath the original (and very nice) scar. He explained that he prefers to be certain he removes good margins with any melanoma. I was not at all unhappy about this.
It was painful for a few days once the anaesthetic wore off, but I took it easy, and after two weeks, the initial dressing was removed. I wore hypafix on the wound for the next couple of months to support it when I returned to exercise. This was about a month after the surgery. I massaged the scar regularly.
What challenges did you and your family and/or friends face after your diagnosis?
My father has also had a melanoma in situ. I made sure that our children know that they are at a higher risk level. I have become somewhat obsessive about protecting my skin, although realistically, I know the sunburn and sun exposure I experienced in my youth is probably the cause. I have always worn large hats, but now I wear sunscreen regularly – almost daily in fact. I cover up my arms and legs more often.
Tell us about your involvement with MPA
After my diagnosis, I was rather paranoid about all of my freckles and moles. I have lots. I joined the online closed support group on Facebook and was reassured to find that this is really normal when you’ve had a melanoma. I’m mostly an observer, but on occasion I post about my scar or skin lesion if someone asks about melanoma in situ, or scar treatment.
I have found the online information on the MPA site really helpful. In my profession as a physiotherapist, I often ask people to undress, and I see their skin – often bits they don’t usually get to see.
MPA information has assisted me to explain the ABCDE rule, which I quote, after asking if they have regular skin checks, and reminding my them to have them.
On occasion I have taken photos of lesions people didn’t know they had. Unfortunately (or fortunately perhaps!) we have together discovered two more melanomas.
How has melanoma cancer affected your outlook on life?
I’m generally a positive person. Melanoma hasn’t changed that, but it has made me a bit more careful about my skin. I’ve now had a squamous cell carcinoma removed as well. I have six monthly skin checks for my own peace of mind. I am reminded that early action is essential, and not to take things for granted.
Do you have a motto or personal mantra?
I’m happiest when…
I’m with family, enjoying their company, and probably discussing something nerdy. Or playing a nerdy game. Or watching a nerdy movie. Usually with a cat on my lap.