“It can happen to you, it happened to me. I am 24 and dying of skin cancer”.

This week a friend sent me a clipping from The Courier Mail’s “The Word on the Street”. The question posed was: “Do you wear sunscreen every day?”

Four out of the six responses resulted in frustration and anger. I read the responses on the way to my second radiation session – palliative radiation. I am 24 and living with terminal melanoma.

Yes, skin cancer will kill me.

This is my post from my blog’s Facebook page, Dear Melanoma.

facebook page melanoma
Image via Dear Melanoma Facebook page.

My questions to you are…

What will it take for people to realise the dangers of sun exposure?

What will it take to overcome the “this will not happen to me” mentality?

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What will it take for people to realise that there is NOTHING safe about tanning?

What will it take for people to be sun smart?

Habits are difficult to change, but my generation has grown up with the “Slip, Slop, Slap” campaign and we should know better. Yet, “almost half of young Australian’s are not aware that melanoma is the most common cancer in their age group” (Melanoma Institute Australia, 2016).

I was never a tanner but because of my red hair, blue eyes and a complexion, I was simply everything that melanoma is attracted to.

However, melanoma does not discriminate.

The most infuriating response in the article for me was by the man in the bottom right-hand corner that doesn’t wear sunscreen because he has “great skin and never blister or burn”. Sorry to break it to you, I sit in an oncology room full of melanoma patients that have “great” olive skin and now wish they had been sun smart in their younger years.

Quick fact: Bob Marley died of melanoma. I bet you wouldn’t have guessed that!

I stress again: melanoma does not discriminate.

Watch Wes Bonny’s melanoma story below (post continues after video).

My frustration to these responses settled. I have spent the last two years since my prognosis educating people, especially young women, about melanoma and the need to be sun smart, and have realised that I can’t change every mindset.

However, what will continue to anger and upset me will be times I scroll down Instagram or Facebook and see people that I consider friends and people that know me well sharing pictures of them lying on the beach or by the pool, tanning!

I don’t care how naturally olive your skin is or if you are tanning whilst wearing sunscreen, it is not good enough. No one should be deliberately seeking a tan unless it is from a bottle. It feels like a kick in the guts. I feel they are making a mockery of my life.

Emma and husband final
Emma and her husband. Image: Facebook.

For two years, I have been facing my terminal prognosis. I have met with palliative care. I have been in the position where I have had to plan my death.

Every Christmas, birthday, anniversary, holiday are met with the fear that it may be my last.

I am literally holding on to every ounce of hope that I can find a treatment that will buy me time, not a cure, just time with my husband, family and friends.

You can follow Emma’s blog “Dear Melanoma” on Facebook here.

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