“My entire family has had melanoma with both parents dying from the disease. My brother and I are survivors only because we knew to get our skin checked.”
In 2008, I noticed something itching on my back and had my wife check it out as I couldn’t see anything in the mirror. She said it appeared to be a tiny pimple and not something out of the ordinary.
I did nothing until a few weeks later I noticed the pimple still there and slightly larger.
I probably would have still not done anything at this point if it was not for my family history. In 1992, my dear mother Pat was diagnosed with a melanoma on her back and then another on her arm in 2000 and then on her lung in 2003. Tragically she passed away from melanoma in February 2004.
My brother and I were shocked to discover in 2006 my father, Lance, was diagnosed with melanoma on his back, Thoughts of our mother’s long battle returned.
So through my parents experience I was aware of the dangers of melanoma and I knew early detection was the key to beating the disease. I didn’t hesitate to go to my GP to get the spot checked. My doctor informed me it was most likely nothing - but, given my family history we should remove and test it.
Lucky for me he did!
When I returned a week later to have the stitches removed I was shocked to be told it was a malignant superficial spreading melanoma and I would need to see a specialist for further treatment.
It was not the news I was expecting to hear. It was a pimple. It wasn’t a mole. It wasn’t black. I went home quite shocked and googled images of melanomas only to find some 16 pages of different melanoma images.
I needed surgery to take a wider excision around the melanoma site to ensure clear margins. Luckily the melanoma was shallow and had not spread to the lymph glands. But my family’s melanoma story doesn’t end there.
In 2009 my dad was diagnosed with another melanoma on his foot and another on his arm in 2011. He eventually passed away aged 90 with the disease taking over his leg in a mass of large blister-like lesions. It seemed unlikely that my brother Tony would be able to avoid the disease and sure enough, after regular skin checks he too was diagnosed with a melanoma on his back in 2010.
We grew up in Port Stephens on the beaches and bays and in boats. There was no sunscreen, no ‘Slip Slop Slap’ and no knowledge of skin cancer. My entire family has had melanoma with both parents dying from the disease. My brother and I are survivors - only because we knew to get our skin checked,. We are the lucky ones.