Life as a Mole Covered Woman - from a sk:n team member
25th March 2015
Judy, a forty-something woman tells us how she manages the ever present risk and fear of skin cancer.
Today in The Daily Mail, there's tragic piece about a man whose malignant melanoma was treated too late, resulting in the spread of cancerous cells to his lungs and his all too early death at just 48.
"Previously, I would click to another screen as fast as if my keyboard were on fire. You see, I'm a classic Fitz Patrick 3 - for those of you who aren't au fait with dermababble, this means those of us with 'creamy' white skin and a propensity to burn.
"Growing up in a family on a middle to low income in the 70s, most holidays were spent camping in South Wales where any risk of sunburn would have been laughed out of the six foot sq caraven we huddled in, day after rainy day. Consequently, when we finally did manage a house swap with a family in Provence in the early 80s, my sister and I were old enough to nick off away from our parents, slather ourselves in Hawaiiaan Tropic Factor SPF4 (seriously) - and wait to turn the same colour as our olive skinned copines.
"Over the course of the next thirty years I worshipped Ra with a near religious fervour. Notable sunburn incidents include, but are not limited to, falling through a corregated iron roof in Rio, covered in cooking oil, in my search for a private topless sunbathing spot and falling asleep in my bikini in Spain for six hoursafter a heavy night clubbing which gave me burns requiring actual hospital treatment.
"I should have known what would happen to my skin. I closely ressemble my Welsh mother in colouring and had gone to hospital with her when she had a melanoma removed from her leg in the mid 80s - not coincedentally approximately 20 years after living in Tanzania. My own moles started to appear, and to grow, and to become mishapen.
"Trips to my GP were unsatisfactory as the wait to see a specialist at the hospital was often over three months. Once there, if the consultant deemed a mole to look dodgy enough for excision, there was another terrifying wait of several weeks. During this time I had started working on the sunscreen Soltan, meaning I had regular exposure to sessions with the Boots expert in UV light damage. This was not reassuring - he taught me that the highest rates of malignant melanomas were amongst people who had had one or more significant burns in the preceding twenty years...
"I then moved to join sk:n clinics and had to leave the room during the first Medical Convention as one of our doctors gave a session on the low survival rates of skin cancer.
"But I'm one of the lucky ones. I work next door to some of the best dermatologists in the country who now regularly check my skin for sinister moles and, where necessary, remove them on the day and biopsy them within the week, as they do for all clients.
"Although I'm big supporter of the NHS, during the last few years they have had to stop performing what they call, 'Low Clinical Value' treatments due to lack of resources. What this means in reality, as I found out in 2012, is they cannot remove a mole unless they are quite certain it has become malignant, during which time it could be too late. I actually lay in surgery as my doctor excised an obviously suspect mole but was staggered when he told me to pop back for a check up in six months time as its neighbour had also changed shape.
"Cut it out now" I asked. "I'd rather be safe." But that was outside of the protocol and I was sent home with instructions on how to use mirrors to keep an eye on it myself.
"As a mother of two, living in an era where we need to increasingly self-treat, I would rather take matters into my own hands and now feel I have the situation under control. I have had five moles removed to date, which all tested as normal in the biopsies. I have regular check-ups with the same Dermatologist who knows me, my history and my skin.
Click here to find out more about sk:n clinics dermatology services."
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