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Why I am allowed to nag

With summer coming, I feel the need to nag a little (sorry!). Some of you know that I suffer from skin cancer - it is an ongoing battle that I am very on top of so nothing to be overly concerned about but I can tell you, it is an awful burden that hangs over you all the time.

I found a melanoma in my thigh about 8 years ago (or should I say my doctor found it and I, of course, argued that there was nothing wrong with it) and since then have had numerous treatments, checks (I go at least 4 times a year now) and things cut out including squamous cell carcinomas, basal cell carcinomas and very early melanoma cells. I am fortunate I do not scar badly so aesthetically things are all good considering but believe me, it is not fun. I never know when I'm going to receive bad news again and the reality is, even if I never go into the sun another day, I did my damage in my youth.

I grew up in a time when we never realised how bad the sun is for us. I have very few memories of putting suntan protection on - I love being outdoors so was usually always outside running or on the tennis court or even the beach. I am very fair with blue eyes (typical skin cancer profile) but do tan so my pursuit of going a lovely brown was something I worked at. Now I think how silly I was. There is no tan worth a life.

I am not even going to get into a discussion about tanning beds (which I didn't use) but suffice to say I strongly believe that they should all be banned. They, my friends, are lethal. Even more so than our beautiful but potentially devastating African sun.

I have, since my melanoma, had so many things cut out that instead of being blasé about needles, I am now exhausted by them. I negotiate with my doctor all the time as in "does this really need to be hacked out of me today"? My doc is not a fan of my use of the word "hack" but she does have a wicked sense of humour (even though she is German - I say that kindly! - and a lot of my friends are very scared of her). A few times ago I had an early appointment and, as it was in the middle of winter, it was very chilly. She needed to cut 'something' out of my shoulder and thigh. I complained, of course, mostly about having to strip when it was so cold. She then whipped out a lovely fleece blanket and even put some classical music on. I commented on how I was getting the special treatment with the music but she said actually no, it was to drown out my screams. There you go, doc humour.

Back to being serious: the sun might be beautiful but it IS dangerous. And it is a fallacy that melanoma only affects fair skinned people. While we are definitely more prone, it affects everyone. And if you think because you tan easily or have black skin you are not in danger, to put it bluntly, you are wrong. Don't be fooled. Yes, my colouring does make me more prone BUT it does not eliminate everyone else.

Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen and having your skin checked is the only answer. It is also interesting to me that people are quite happy to go for other annual checkups but not bothered to go for their annual skin checkups. Maybe I was a little like that before though - before a doctor said to me that if I didn't have the melanoma removed, I would die. Up until that point, even when told I had it, I was still not overly concerned. I mean, we all live forever, right?

My next treatment will be on my chest as I have numerous problem areas there apparently (it's crazy that these skin cancer cells are not obvious to the eye but just lurking around. I think that is what scares me the most). It will involve pain and even some needling (24 needles to be exact, going 2mm into my chest - not fun on bone!) which aesthetically is a win but will apparently take 3 weeks to heal and won't be fun. I had it done on my face last January and thought it was going to be a breeze. I am not someone who can't take pain but it was awful (I couldn't leave my house for 10 days - I would have scared children and adults alike) and I was so swollen I could only drink through a straw for 5 days. A win for the hips though!

I want to say I hope I am not scaring anyone but in a way I hope I am! There is nothing that makes me happier than when people message me to say that thanks to my warnings they have had their whole family checked. It is time out of our very busy days but it could mean you have a lot more days to be busy! Melanoma is one of the fastest spreading cancers and, if advanced, there is often very little that can be done. It is a silent killer too as the symptoms are seldom felt or seen until it is serious. My melanoma was a freckle, not even a mole, above the skin. It gave me no reason to think it could kill me. But it would have. That makes a half an hour skin check very worth it to me. What do you say?

'Til next time, Beautiful!

P.s. I am thrilled to say that we have just added a NATURAL sunscreen range to our store, Sunumbra, which has something for everyone to use whether on the beach, playing sport and even for kids. Please make sure you protect yourself and those you love!


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5 comments

  • Thank you for the info.

    Nadia on
  • Thanks for sharing such a personal journey…. Hope your treatment goes well! Love your writing abilities…

    Michael on
  • Thanks for this – a very good reminder!!
    I’ve also read/heard that some sun protection creams are also harmful, and contain toxic ingredients. Would be good to have a list of the “safe” products to use ;-)

    Gaenor on
  • Such a great read! My skin has definitely had its share of sun damage and I smother my child in sun cream to avoid her doing the same. There are still too many sun worshippers who aren’t taking care and the damage is irreparable, not to mention very dangerous as your article highlights.

    Tamara on
  • I had no idea! Thanks so much for this…I’m not a sun tanning gal, but definitely something to still keep in mind.

    Praying that you heal quickly after your next round of testing…sounds awful :(

    Simone Cameron on

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