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'I was 23, and it was life-threatening.' 10 women share what skin cancer really looks like.​

“I never thought it would happen to me.”

When I asked women what went through their minds after hearing the words ‘it’s skin cancer‘, genuine shock was a common feeling.

It’s understandable. For some reason, skin cancer doesn’t always feel quite as serious as all the other cancers. While feeling our breasts for lumps and booking in pap smears, we put off penciling in skin checks by telling ourselves things like:

Only old people get skin cancer. When Dad got a skin cancer, he just cut it off. It’s no big deal. I never burn, I tan. The sun isn’t as harsh in Europe. My foundation has SPF in it, that’ll do. I don’t have any freckles.

The reality is, skin cancer can happen to you. In fact, Cancer Council statistics show two in three of us will have a type of skin cancer at some point in our lives. And while many skin cancers are treatable when caught early, melanoma, the most dangerous type of skin cancer, is the deadliest cancer in young Australians.

Not sure if you should be worried about your mole? Watch this helpful video below, then go and get your skin checked. Post continues after video.

Video by MMC

If no one in your life has had skin cancer, you might not know what you don’t know.

You need facts. And experiences from people who’ve been there.

That’s why we spoke to 10 women who have experienced different forms of skin cancer, and a dermatologist and skin cancer specialist to explain them in a way that’s easy to understand.

Types of skin cancer.

But first… what is skin cancer?

Sinclair Dermatology‘s Principal Dermatologist Professor Rod Sinclair explained skin cancers occur when skin cells are damaged by overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. They fall into two main categories: non-melanoma and melanoma.

Broadly speaking, the majority of skin cancers diagnosed are either: Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC), Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) or Melanoma.

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Let's look at Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC), Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) and Melanoma. Image: Getty.
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1. Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC).

  • SCCs develop in the squamous cells in the upper layer of the skin, are common on parts of the body that have the most incidental sun exposure (head, neck, hands, forearms and lower legs) and can grow and change quickly over weeks or months.
  • Symptoms of an SCC may include: A thickened red, scaly spot, a lump that has appeared and grown quickly, a spot that looks like a sore that hasn't healed and/or is painful or tender to touch.

2. Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC).

  • BCCs are the most common type of skin cancer in Australia and they develop in the basal cells in the lowest layer of the skin.
  • BCCs are common on parts of the body that receive high levels of sun exposure (the areas that tend to get really burnt at the beach like the head, face, neck, shoulders and back) and grow slowly over time with little symptoms.
  • Symptoms of a BCC may include: A pearly lump, a scaly, dry area that is shiny, something that may look like a pimple and is pale or bright pink in colour.

3. Melanoma.

  • Melanoma is the third most common cancer diagnosed in Australia, and is particularly common in young people - it's a life-threatening form of skin cancer because it can spread to other parts of the body via the lymph nodes (think of melanoma cells as spores).
  • They develop deep within the skin and can be caused by a history of unprotected sun exposure (sunburn and solarium use), and can appear all over the body and develop over a period of weeks to months.
  • There are different types and stages of melanoma - if caught early, melanoma is treatable. This becomes more difficult once the cancer has spread.
  • Symptoms of a melanoma may include: A new or existing spot, mole or freckle, a spot, mole or freckle that changes shape, colour or size and/or had a smudgy, irregular outline.

You can read more about different types of skin cancers on the Cancer Council Australia website.

Now, in partnership with not-for-profit melanoma education initiative Call Time on Melanoma, we hear from 10 Aussie women varying in ages and upbringings who know first hand what skin cancer really looks like.

The images might be hard to look at, but we must.

1. Erin, 22.

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The mole on Erin's hand. Image: Supplied.
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Erin's hand after surgery. Image: Supplied.
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Erin's hand a few weeks after the operation. Image: Supplied.
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This is what Erin's hand looks like today. Image: Supplied.
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"When I was 21, I was diagnosed with stage 1 melanoma, clark level 3. It was just a small mole on the back of my hand I had had for a few years, something I never really worried about. My mum got me to have a skin check because of my fair skin and my GP suggested I get a biopsy of that particular mole. At first, the biopsy showed it as a benign mole, but I got more taken out just as a precaution, which was when we realised it was actually cancerous."

"The melanoma showed signs of regression, meaning we didn't know how deep it was, so I also had to have the lymph nodes in my underarm my hand drained into removed and checked for cancer. Thankfully, it was all clear! I've had four operations on my hand now and I'm happy it's over, but upset there's not much awareness around being sun smart, especially here in Australia.

"Despite seeing what I went through - physically and emotionally - my friends still spent the past summer tanning without sunscreen."

2. Louise, 38.

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The tiny spot next to Louise's nose. Image: Supplied.
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Louise was left with this scar. Image: Supplied.
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"I didn't really think a great deal about sun safety growing up. To me, being 'sun safe' was not getting burnt. I grew up in the 80s and being in the sun was normal, it wasn't even compulsory to wear a hat at play time when I was in primary school. I tried not to get burnt, but still thought it was OK to get a tan. I frequently sun baked and, between the ages of 18-24, used the solarium most weeks. It was the "in thing" to have tanned skin and it was quite normal to go to the solarium for my age group."

"I only started becoming diligent with sunscreen after I was diagnosed with a BCC. I was pregnant at the time and when a spot appeared next to my nose, I thought it was a growth/mole that appears during pregnancy, or a strange pimple. At my six-week postpartum check up, I asked the GP (not a skin specialist) and she said she would burn it off, that it would probably be fine and to come back in two weeks if it hadn't gone away.

"I thought it was odd to just burn it off and not do a biopsy, but I was busy with a baby so I didn't do anything more for two weeks. It hadn't changed, so I went back to the GP and said I was concerned. Again, she said it was probably nothing. I wasn't happy with that and the GP gave me a referral to see a plastic surgeon... who was based in another town two hours drive away, I didn't know how I was going to manage that with a newborn baby and a two-year-old. I ended up chatting about it with a friend and she mentioned there was a local GP in our town who specialised in skin cancer. I went and told her my story and she was very concerned the original GP had only burnt it off. The new doctor took a biopsy straight away and then rang me the next day to say it was a BCC that had infiltrated a nerve, and I needed to return to have a greater margin removed.

"​When I found out I had a skin cancer, I was shocked. I think I was quite naive and probably didn't think it could ever happen to me as I didn't have fair skin or any moles, and no one in my family had ever had skin cancer before. The doctor is quite certain my skin cancer was from solarium use - when she asked me how many times I'd used a solarium in my life and I said more than 100 times, she looked horrified.

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"After I had the spot removed, I put a photo on Instagram of the scar telling people to get their skin checked. All my friends were shocked and many said they never wore sunscreen. Now, I use SPF 50+ sunscreen everyday and often apply several times per day if I am outside or have to drive long distances (I used to only wear sunscreen at the beach or SPF 15+ in my moisturiser). I am extremely diligent with my kids and make them wear SPF 50+ every morning, and if they go outside, they must wear a wide brimmed hat.

"Please, please, please get your skin checked by a skin specialist every year. Stop tanning in the sun and wear SPF 50+ everyday."

3. Maddy, 23.

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Maddy didn't have time to take any 'before' photos of her spot. Image: Supplied.
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This is what her arm looks like today. Image: Supplied.
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"My name is Maddy and I am a 23-year-old student from Adelaide. Just over three months ago, I went for my first ever skin check. My mum had been pestering me to go for months. When I went for the check, the doctor asked me if there were any spots of concern. I pointed out a few freckles and a 'pimple' on my arm that had been there for a couple of months. I told the doctor I thought it was an ingrown hair. He looked at it and said he would take a biopsy of it but he said it shouldn’t be anything of concern. A week later, I got a call from the doctor saying I had a melanoma on my arm."

"They booked me in to see a plastic surgeon the next day. Within a week, I was in hospital having my stage 2 melanoma removed by the plastic surgeon. It came back that the cancer had not spread anywhere else in my body, but I now have an eight centimetre scar on my right arm. When I first saw the scar on my arm, I was extremely upset. I know I shouldn’t be and I am very lucky they found the melanoma when they did, but at first, I really disliked the look of my arm. However, after seeing how people react when they see the scar, my opinion of my arm has changed. The most common reaction when people see my scar is 'I need to get a skin check'. I've realised that my scar may be saving lives.

"I am blonde and fair. I have never been a tanner. I have never used tanning oil and have always considered myself 'sun smart'. I am a big fan of fake tan. However, after this happened to me, my outlook on the sun and looking after my skin has completely changed. I never thought at 23 I would be having a life threatening melanoma removed from my arm. For the rest of my life, I have to get a skin check every three to six months and my chance of getting another melanoma is 20 per cent higher than the everyday person."

4. Theresa, 53.

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Theresa's skin cancer is barely visible. Image: Supplied.
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Here she is in recovery. Image: Supplied.
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The spot on Theresa's lip was also quite small.
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Her recovery was very painful. Image: Supplied.
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"I was 50 when I had my first diagnosis. In my teenage years, I thought I was doing the right thing using baby oil when I went to the beach and wearing sunglasses ('at least it's something', I thought), however these were more as fashion accessories with my bikini than for sun protection. The goal was always to tan, my ex-partner loved to sunbake also and tanned easily, so I was the same and loved the feeling and look of a tan. I even used sunbeds during the winter sometimes just to keep that light tan look. Back then, fake tan was really only the thick, dark style dancers and body builders use, so I didn’t even consider using that until my mid-forties."

"In my twenties and thirties, I was more mindful of when I was getting burnt and to cover up with a light shirt, hat and glasses. Where my sun protection fell down was that I rarely re-applied, maybe after a swim, and never put any sunscreen on prior to leaving the house. I had always had a small mole at the top left hand side of my nose in the same area my glasses sat. At one stage in my thirties, it got sensitive so I had a biopsy on it and it came back as an ‘active mole’, but nothing to be concerned about. It was agreed it had become sensitive because I’d started wearing reading glasses. In my late forties, the company I was with offered free skin checks. I was always given the all clear. Then, just after I had turned 50, I was in Sydney visiting family, picked up my niece for a cuddle and she commented on the ‘bump on my nose’. The original little mole that was there had turned into a hard bump the size of a large pea. I hadn’t even noticed it and had no idea how long it had been there.

"I was referred to a dermatologist, who did a biopsy on the lump and a couple of other spots that she picked up. For the lump on the side of my nose I was referred to a dermatologist, who did a biopsy on the lump and a couple of other spots that she’d picked up. The other spots came back as BCC’s that could be treated with creams applied daily over 6 weeks but the lump was an SCC and had to be removed. Because it was so close to my eye she referred me onto a plastic surgeon. Once the tumour was removed, they noticed a couple of nerve endings from my eye area were within the tumour. A course of radiation was recommended so that if any cancer cells were missed in the operation, the radiation would kill them. I had 25 radium appointments over a five-week period, which involved being locked into a mask to hold your head completely still and lying there for approximately 15 minutes while they zapped you. The staff were angels as I battled claustrophobia initially, but once they cut a hole in the mouth area of the mask I could breathe more easily.

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"Twelve months after the diagnosis on my nose, I notice a couple of spots on my lower lip that would get flaky. When I went to brush the dry skin off, I would feel a tingle. Initially, I through it might be the cold sore virus, so I had tests for that that returned negative. My dermatologist took more biopsies and they came back as SCCs which needed to be removed ASAP. Treatment recommended for this was lip laser, where the lip is numbed via needles to the inside of your lip, then layers of skin are lasered off. The after care is the worst. The laser creates an open wound over the whole lip area which has to be cleaned every hour for the first 48 hours. You’re restricted to food and drink through a straw and you’re pretty much housebound for around 10 days.

"My lip will always be sensitive to the sun and I find I have to have some form of lip balm or lipstick on it at all times or it dries out quickly and splits. Because of the radium and laser, I can no longer be out in the sun for longer than 20 minutes at a time. Even driving, I apply sunscreen on my lower arms and back of my hands before heading off, and will be having the windows of my car tinted prior to this summer.

"When I was initially told it was a skin cancer, I was disappointed in myself. I had always been so diligent with my facial skincare routine and the products I used on my skin as far as cleaning and moisturising, but this didn’t extend to sun care for my face. The mindset at the time when it came to sunscreen was that it’s thick, white and gooey, so if I used anything, it would ruin my makeup. You think that skin cancer won’t happen to you, you naively think that because you had worn a hat and glasses or used SPF 15+ oil, that you did the right thing, but then I thought about the hours I’d spent in the sun and the numerous times I’d got burnt and peeled, I realised it was only a matter of time.

"A tan is not beautiful – it’s burnt skin. If a tan is important to you, find a healthy fake tan product and use that. Sunscreen is not an option these days. It is imperative and just as important as brushing your teeth. Also, please, get your skin checked. We promote having pap smears and breast screenings, but why not skin checks? Make having a yearly skin check a part of your annual health checks. Skin cancer caught early is curable."

5. Kailey, 25.

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The spot on Kailey's back after her initial biopsy. Image: Supplied.
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Kailey's back after surgery. Image: Supplied.
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This is what Kailey's back looks like now. Image: Supplied.
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"Having very fair skin, my parents were always so good at putting sunscreen on us as we were growing up and we spent a lot of time outside as a family. As a teenager, I spent a lot of time at the beach and wasn’t as sun safe as I should’ve been. A lot of my friends tanned naturally, so I was quite jealous. I always had a mole on my back, but because I couldn't see it every day, I couldn’t judge whether it was changing or growing."

"A few people pointed it out to me (one being a very good friend of mine studying nursing) and that’s when I decided I had to get it checked. Mainly, because people were noticing it and it made me self-conscious. Being fair-skinned, I definitely should’ve gotten my skin checked much earlier on. Initially, there was a mix up between the skin cancer doctor and the melanoma institute where they had referred me too, so I was caught off guard and quite upset when they told me I had melanoma. I knew what melanoma was, but didn’t really know a lot of details about it.

"Once getting the news from my skin cancer doctor, I was referred to the Melanoma Institute of Australia (MIA) to see my oncologist. He sat me down and told me what he thought was best for me given how young I was. I had to have it cut out, as well as having my lymph nodes removed for testing to see if the melanoma had spread. 10 days later (the day before my surgery), I had to spend the day at the hospital imaging centre getting dye injected into my back where the mole was removed so they could map out where the cancer would spread if it was to. It was a six-hour day of walking around to get the dye moving through my body and laying very still while countless X-rays and images were taken of where the dye had spread. The next day, I had an hour surgery to have the melanoma and my lymph nodes removed.

"Thankfully, the melanoma hadn't spread to my lymph nodes and it's all been removed. Having melanoma, you are always monitoring it. I went back to the MIA for the first six months after surgery for check ups and am now on yearly visits to my oncologist. No matter how ugly you think the scar is going to look, your health is far more important."

6. Claire, 45.

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Claire's skin cancer was barely noticeable. Image: Supplied.
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This was taken after the spot was removed. Image: Supplied.
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Claire's forehead after surgery. Image: Supplied.
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This is what Claire looks like now. Image: Supplied.

"I've been diagnosed with skin cancer twice - first when I was 37 and a second at 44. I'm from the UK and had never really worried about skin cancer, and that was part of the problem. I can't remember my parents being concerned about it when I was little and when I was an older teen and started to travel, doing the Europe holidays with my girlfriends, getting burnt was just what happened. We would be out on the booze all night and falling asleep on the beach all day! I didn't worry then as I still don't think I was hearing sun protection messages like we do now. I had a 'it will never happen to me' attitude, and I always thought I tanned pretty nicely. I'm not fair, so I never thought skin cancer would affect someone like me."

"When I moved to Australia, there was much more talk of skin checks and sun protection than I'd ever heard before. I knew I had this little patch of skin on the centre of my spine that looked flaky and dry, but as it was on my back, I didn't think about it regularly because I couldn't see it. Hearing some of the girls at work chatting about skin checks, I thought I better get someone to take a quick look at my back. I found out it was cancer in a really awful way.

"I went to my GP, who took a biopsy, and I had an appointment a week or so later to go back for the results. While I was waiting for my return appointment, I got a bad case of food poisoning. I went to see a different GP at the same clinic and as he was looking through my notes he said, "ahh yes, you are back seeing Dr X later in the week about your skin cancer, aren't you?". It floored me. I was too shocked to say anything other than 'yes' and too scared to ask anything. I waited those extra few days in limbo, knowing it was cancer but knowing nothing else.

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"The GP removed the BBC from my back but unfortunately didn't obtain a clear boarder (enough space around the cancer) so I was referred to a dermatologist to repeat the procedure. After that,  I started going to a skin cancer clinic for my skin checks. The second cancer looked really different to my first one. It was a skin coloured pimple on my forehead. A physician at the skin cancer clinic took a little biopsy and referred me straight to plastic surgery team at a hospital to have it removed. This cancer was more confronting for me as it was on my face. I usually don't have a fringe, but I got one cut in at the time of the surgery to hide the scar. I had a bit of a reaction after the surgery and had a huge amount of fluid build up in my face, so I spent a week or so very swollen, sore and self-conscious before the swelling reduced.

"Currently, I'm all clear and there was nothing new at my most recent skin check. I can't 'rest' on that thought, though. Now, I'm slightly paranoid about every blemish, pimple or itch on the skin but it does mean I am fairly proactive. I want to pass on the message of the importance of getting your skin checked by a reputable professional. I pay $100 for my check, and when you think about what we currently spend on beauty products, spending this amount once a year on skin safety is a no brainer to me."

7. Erin, 34.

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Erin's love heart-shaped mole. Image: Supplied.
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The scar after surgery. Image: Supplied.
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"When I was 20, I was diagnosed with my first melanoma. It came about as I was doing work experience in Alice Springs and someone commented to me that a freckle on the back of my leg looked like a love heart. I thought that was strange because I didn’t have a freckle that looked like a heart. Upon checking, I realised a large freckle that had always been there had grown in size and now did look like a heart. Because it was on the back of my leg, I hadn’t paid too much attention to it. I always knew I had a big freckle there, but I was only 20 and have never been one to lay in the sun or get sunburnt, so I never thought to keep an eye on it."

"When I returned from Alice Springs, I mentioned my freckle to my GP in passing at an appointment for something else. He was amazing and decided he should do a punch biopsy there and then but was confident it would come back as nothing. A week later, he rang me to ask if I could come straight back in to see him. He explained my ‘freckle’ was actually a melanoma in situ. I was referred to a surgeon who removed it the next week. The size of the freckle and the need for clear margins meant I needed to have a large chunk taken from my leg. Unfortunately, the positioning of it on the back of my leg right above my ankle meant I needed a skin graft as well. I was on crutches for a month and now have a pretty gnarly scar.

"Fast forward to 2016, I had been having annual skin checks, getting moles and freckles removed here and there just to be safe. All my freckles, most of which are on my legs, were being closely watched for any changes. It was at one of these regular check ups that my dermatologist wanted to take another biopsy of a freckle we had been watching on the opposite leg. Again, it came back as another melanoma in situ and was removed a week later.

"I’ve been so lucky that both times, my melanomas, while malignant, have been only level one because they were both caught so early. I hate to think what would've happened had I left these until later thinking that young people don’t get skin cancer. Now, fake tan is my friend and I cringe when I hear people talk about tanning and their horrific sunburns."

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8. Louise, 47.

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After Louise had her mole removed and the area marked out. Image: Supplied.
After surgery. Image: Supplied.
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This is what louise's scar looks like now. Image: Supplied.
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"Growing up, I was always the kid who got burnt. With fair skinned and lots of freckles and moles, I burned and peeled very regularly. I was also a kid of the 70s and 80s, so spent heaps of time outside on my bike and would have been lucky to wear anything stronger than a SPF 8+ or 15+ in those days. I spent a little bit of time in a solarium in the late 90s in preparation for my wedding, but I was never a tanner and I became more diligent with sunscreen as I got older."

"I have had skin checks in the past, but not consistently. In November, 2016, I noticed a mole on my arm was a bit redder than normal and thought I should do something about it. I didn’t see the doctor until the following May to get it properly checked out. As a busy working mum, I did what many women do and put myself last. It was only when I had an email reminding me to get a skin check that I followed up. I didn’t expect that my mole was melanoma, but I was happy to have it removed on the off chance that it turned nasty. I just didn’t realise that had already happened.

"I was genuinely shocked to find out it was melanoma. When I saw my doctor originally, we decided to remove the mole even though he didn’t think it was a melanoma. When the pathology came back positive, we were both shocked. I was in the car in between kids sport drop off and pick ups, and the world stopped for a few minutes as I took it all in. I was petrified at first as I didn’t have any information on the stage of the melanoma. In the two days between my next appointment, I spent a bit of time consulting Doctor Google, which was good and bad. That gave me time to understand a bit more about what melanoma was, and also what words I needed to listen for when we saw the doctor.

When my husband and I saw the doctor for the next appointment, the pathology showed the melanoma was stage 1, so we had caught it very early. There were no indicators the dodgy cells had travelled to my nearby lymph nodes, which meant my treatment was surgical. We booked in for a Local Wide Area Excision which removes a large section of the surrounding skin based on the size of the cancer. This area is large and deep, and goes right down to the subcutaneous layer of the skin to ensure any rogue cells are removed. I had the surgery at the doctors under local anaesthetic, the worst part was getting all the injections!

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"My current diagnosis is all clear. I have my skin checked every six months and will do that for five years from the diagnosis. So far so good. My risk of getting another melanoma is ten times higher than someone who hasn’t had one before, and my children’s risk of diagnosis is also double those of someone without melanoma in their family history. My advice to everyone is: check you bits – all your bits.

"A dear friend said to me we should be giving ourselves a birthday gift each year of a clean bill of health. This means, every year, we should be booking ourselves into the GP or whoever we need to see to get a check-up. Check your boobs, check your vag, check your skin, check your heart, check your blood – check the lot! Don’t wait. For those with a melanoma diagnosis: many have stories like mine, but many don’t. Thankfully, research into treatment has progressed significantly with immunotherapy giving many people years they never thought they’d have.

"But as always, prevention sure as hell beats treatment. Wear the sunscreen, wear the hat and use your common sense."

9. Bec, 39.

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The spot on Bec's head. Image: Supplied.
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Bec's forehead after surgery. Image: Supplied.
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"My mum was ahead of her time and diligent with sunscreen and hats when we were kids, but our school certainly didn’t have a 'no hat, no play policy'. Later in life, my dermatologist told me it’s likely my skin cancer developed over time in my hairline as I always had a ponytail at school. It was my hairdresser who first noticed a spot on my head, but I didn't have it checked until three years later. I think the impetus was all my children being in school and finally having some time for myself.

"The area had been bothering me more for around six months. It started to bleed and wasn’t healing, which is a real danger sign. I’m a nurse, and my husband's a doctor, so I was so angry at myself when my dermatologist mildly freaked out upon seeing it. My initial fear was melanoma, and waiting for that biopsy result was dreadful. Finding out it was a BCC was a relief to be honest because it's much more treatable.

"The procedure I had was Mohs surgery, where they take the tissue and check the pathology at the borders while you wait to spare the skin. Thankfully, I only had to have two excisions and the margins were clear. The pain afterwards was incredible, the top of the scalp is SUCH a sensitive area. I now have a skin check every six months and just had very painful laser and photodynamic therapy three weeks ago as preventative care.

"I’ve had two further early BCCs removed, but as they were caught early, they were simple biopsies. My biggest message would be: DO NOT ignore spots that don’t go away! It is so easy as a busy woman, mother or not, to put ourselves last. Had I got checked sooner, things would've been a lot simpler. Also, always wear a hat and sunscreen."

10. Suzie, 37.

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This is how small the spot on Suzie's leg was. Image: Supplied.
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This is the scar left behind after removing the skin cancer. Image: Supplied.

"I grew up in Noosa on the beach but my parents were very diligent about sun safety. We would always be in rashies, hats, sunscreen, and I was definitely not someone who would tan at the beach. I was always envious of those who could tan, though. Throughout my childhood, I was monitored by a dermatologist as my brothers and I were flagged early on as kids with fair skin at a higher risk of skin cancer. As an adult, I started relying on my GP for checks, then a local skin cancer clinic. I'd get a check every 12 months and have previously had BCCs on my legs, face and neck.

"That said, there was a spot on my leg that always had an element of pain to it, but had always been told it was nothing to worry about. When I was in Bali with my brother, I knocked my leg on a massage bed. It was very painful and the spot bled, so I knew I had to get it checked as soon as I got home a few weeks later. When my doctor told me it was melanoma, I was in shock. I didn’t want to tell my family, I was embarrassed, I just wanted to deal with it and move on. I felt like everyone would be like “I told you so”.

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"The doctor who originally told me the spot was nothing felt terrible and made all the appointments himself. Within 24 hours, I was at a plastic surgeon. He even called me a few times after telling me he was sure it had been nothing, justifying it by saying he had consulted his other colleagues. I never went back to that doctor but was grateful for his plastic surgeon contact. The plastic surgeon specialised in melanoma and very matter of factly told me I would need a month off work for the skin graft to take and I'd be having surgery within a couple of days.

"Surgery was easy, the recovery was interesting. I was halfway through a renovation and was living in the lounge room with the rest of the house in pieces. A plus was being able to boss around trades from my bed! It was a ‘punch in the guts’ kind of year - I got skin cancer and my marriage broke down. Perspective is a funny thing. Skin cancer is preventable and we can, to an extent, control it with regular checks. The same can’t be said for other things in life.

"I have since had several BCCs, and most recently, an SCC. I feel like a I have a great team now and am supported, and have been reassured that my skin type is just really, really unfortunate and I am super susceptible to skin cancers of all kinds. I now know exactly what to look for and flag new marks on my body every six months. I need three to five biopsies every time I go, and there has only been one occasion where I have been completely clear. It’s just part of my narrative and I am used to it now.

"Obviously, we want to go back in time and tell our younger selves that sunscreen and hats are not enough, that you need to stay out of the sun and wear long sleeves. But it's also all that accidental sun exposure - walking to the car, driving, walking between buildings outdoors - that people need to be aware of. It all adds up."

Please, look after yourself and get your skin checked regularly by your GP or a skin specialist, or visit a reputable skin cancer check clinic in your area. Wear sunscreen everyday. Be sun smart. 

For more helpful information about skin cancer and melanoma treatment and education, follow Call Time on Melanoma on Instagram. This article contains the individual experiences of Australian women and should not be substituted over professional, personalised medical advice.

You can also listen to our No Filter interview with Emma Betts. Emma was 22 when she was diagnosed with stage four melanoma. Sadly, Emma has passed away, but in 2017, she spoke to Mia Freedman about what it's like to be 25 and planning your own funeral. You can listen to Emma's interview below.

Want to read more about sun safety, health and beauty? Read more below:

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