Contact Us

Phone 1300 884 450

Belinda Smith

A bit about me…

I’m a wife to my dear husband Vaughan and Mum to two boys 4 and 6 years. We live on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland. I’m a Naturopath but am taking this year off clinic. Melanoma has been a big part of my life after losing my mum from melanoma when I was young and having several family members have some removed. I grew up in New Zealand. Being fair, I was that kid with the big hat and always laden with sunscreen. Back then it was only SPF15 and there were no rashies like today.

My first Melanoma and treatment…

I had my first Melanoma in my late 20’s. I had been cleared by a Mole scan clinic but had a gut feeling one wasn’t right so went to my GP to have it removed. It came back level 1 in situ Melanoma. I remember fainting and thinking I was going to die like Mum. After that removal I had multiple excisions which were benign or dysplastic. I have many dysplastic moles and they have the potential to turn into melanomas. I took extra great care of myself, my nutrition, did regular exercise, lived a healthy lifestyle and had 6 monthly skin checks. I stay out of the sun and supplement with vitamin D. I’ve learnt that someone with my history really needs a good dermatologist and GP rather than relying on Mole scan clinics. But that’s another story. I was astonished when I had another early Melanoma removed last year and then two more since and many biopsies. Not just a few, around 60 excisions over the years. I’ve gone through periods when I can’t stand my skin, all the moles and scars but I’ve learned I need to love the skin I’m in and I’ve been working on visualisations of health to accept my skin. When you’ve had as many as I’ve had and there’s no specific treatment, looking inside one’s self seems to help.

Challenges post diagnosis…

Nothing can prepare you for the fear and anxiety that comes with a diagnosis like this. I found that the mental and emotional turmoil one goes through can be as big as the physical challenges. The thought of not being around to watch my kids grow up was confronting to say the least. I still have moments when I have another surgery and worry about not growing old with my husband. Physically, skin surgery can be as simple as 8 or so shave biopsies that heal beautifully, or a wide excision removing a Melanoma with internal and external stitches. Last year I had 6 weeks of limping from the latter. Unfortunately, the stitches split, got infected and I ended up another 2 weeks off my leg. I needed a temporary disability parking permit. It was tough. I also had stitches from other biopsies in my hand so basic chores around the house like cutting veges and cleaning were difficult. Vaughan was a huge help and I was lucky enough to have a charity called Mummy’s Wish send a cleaner to help for a few weeks. I remember turning up to school for prep pickup with my 3yo asleep – I was full of stitches and had to carry him into school hoping none of the stitches would pop.
I love exercise – running, walking, yoga, bouncing on the trampoline with my kids, walking the dog. For the last 9 months I’ve been really limited with this. It’s been hard. My hubbie and neighbour have been great helping walk the dog after surgeries. I recall making it across the road to the park opposite our house about 100m away being a big step last year, only to let the kids and dog have a run round while I had a moment to have a counselling call. Another memorable moment after my legs healed was my first walk and jog in the forest. Each time my feet hit the ground and bounced onto the next foot I remember feeling lucky in that moment. I was really running. It made me instantly empathise with those not so lucky who are confined to a wheelchair.

MPA…

I came across MPA when researching resources and the cancer council also told me about them. I was offered some free counselling with the amazing Fiona Bennett. That fitted in with busy family life and those sessions were just invaluable. Fiona helped me to get through the initial shock and introduced me to some mindfulness techniques that eased the burden significantly and continue to. Fiona is very resourceful, insightful and understanding and I am so grateful to her and MPA for the support they provided my family and I.

How Melanoma has affected my outlook on life…

I feel like I have a lot to live for and Melanoma has stopped me in my tracks and made me realise this. Some people may think – “just cut it out, she’ll be right” but the reality is that it’s scary. My tendency to early Melanomas may have a good prognosis but I need to regularly face uncertainty and fears. I have found facing these fears manageable using mindfulness and gratitude more. Embracing each moment, every hug, every experience can keep me present and keep my mind off the results pending, the missed yoga class, the new mole I just found. I’m a lot more relaxed and don’t seem to sweat the small stuff like I used to. If the kids want another story and its bedtime well, so be it, let’s have another one and another cuddle! Some may say I’m going with the flow.

This quote sums me up at the moment…

“And one day she discovered that she was fierce and strong and full of fire, and that not even she could hold herself back because her passion burned brighter than her fears” Mark Anthony

I’m happiest when…

I’m with family, I have shade on a sunny day, I’m walking in the forest, I’m doing mosaic art, I’m drinking tea with friends, I’m making healthy food for loved ones and I’m helping people.

< Back to Survivor Stories

Sign up for Email Newsletter

Our quarterly e-newsletter includes the latest news, upcoming events and more.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.