‘I never thought I’d be at risk’

Kate was diagnosed with malignant melanoma after a routine check on a mole.

“I had a mole on the side of my knee which was about 1cm across. It was a bit rough and uneven and when I saw my GP about something else, I mentioned that I wanted it removed as I didn’t like the look of it. I wasn’t worried about it, but I used to feel a bit self-conscious if I wore a skirt that wasn’t long enough to cover it. 

“At the hospital, the doctor suggested I could have a procedure where the top of the mole is shaved off under local aesthetic. No one seemed to think there was a risk of cancer, but the doctor went ahead with the procedure because of the position of the mole. After the procedure, a sample was sent off for a routine check. Two weeks later I had a message asking me to return to hospital.

“I was quite naive really and I didn’t think about why I was going back. But when I went into the clinic, I was told I had malignant melanoma and needed an operation to remove it. 

“I was totally shocked by the results. I hadn’t considered that anything like this could happen, and the fact that nobody else had thought there was cause for concern made the results even more shocking. I’m fair skinned with red hair, but I never thought I’d be at risk as I’ve never been really badly sunburnt and I’ve never used sunbeds.   

“It all happened very quickly. Two weeks after I received the results, I was given a sentinel node biopsy to see if the cancer had spread to other parts of my body. This was followed by an operation to remove the melanoma. Initially, they thought I’d need a skin graft, but luckily they managed to stitch up the 5cm incision instead. 

“It took about a month to get back to normal again. After the operation, I had to keep a splint on my leg for ten days, to keep my leg straight and give the wound a chance to heal. It was difficult waiting for the results, as it was hard not to worry that the cancer had spread. However, I was very lucky. The melanoma was self-contained.

“I have to have check-ups every three months for the first two years after the operation. I’ll then have them every six months for three more years. The nurse examines my skin and gland areas, and I also check myself at home for any changes to my skin and moles. 

“From spring onwards I wear moisturiser with a sunblock in, and during the summer I avoid the sun from 11am to 3pm. I’m careful not to spend too much time in the sun. I don’t want to risk getting burnt and doing any more damage to my skin.”

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