A few days before Christmas I went under the plastic surgeon’s knife. Not for a boob job. Not for a tummy tuck. Not for a butt lift. Although apparently if I do want any of those procedures, I am EXACTLY the right age for them. At 43. Sheesh!
No, my thigh was sliced open and a malignant melanoma was removed.
I must say, the ABSOLUTE last thing I expected to be told the week before Christmas was “you have a malignant melanoma and I’ve booked you in to see a plastic surgeon”. Um, what?
For so many reasons I was incredibly lucky. Not that I had a melanoma, that bit sucked.
I was incredibly lucky (and am extremely grateful) because:
- 11 Dec – I noticed a large freckle that had been on the top of my thigh since I was a teenager had changed significantly over a few weeks.
- 12 Dec – I had a very bad gut feeling about my freckle so I made an appointment to see my GP. I see my GP about every six months for another matter, and had only seen her a few weeks earlier. When my freckle looked pretty much the same – maybe it was a little darker. If that gut feel hadn’t been so strong I would have waited until April when my next appointment was due.
- 13 Dec – my GP (who I have been seeing for about 13 years) looked closely at the freckle under her scope, said nothing seems remiss, but yes, it’s changed. Let’s just slice it off to be safe. And she had time to do it there and then (Friday morning). Oh, and my GP usually NEVER works Fridays.
- 16 Dec – Monday morning – THAT phone call. Ugh.
- 17 Dec – followup appointment with GP who tells me “my previous patient cancelled so I had time to call my favourite plastic surgeon who specialises in melanoma – he can squeeze you in tomorrow. Is that OK?” Er, yes.
- 18 Dec – visit plastic surgeon. Tried not to vomit from nerves, stress and general all-round freakoutyness. Yes, that’s a word. Plastic surgeon takes a look, reads the path report (by now I’ve been listed on the Cancer Registry Queensland – more freakoutyness at that realisation) and says “what are you doing tomorrow afternoon”. Again, stupidly grateful he can fit me in, otherwise I’d be waiting until January.
- 19 Dec (Thursday) – frantically try and do all my Christmas shopping – groceries and gifts; cook a few meals, cancel all my appointments, meetings, the Christmas party we were hosting for 35 on Sunday, and a few other bits and pieces. All before heading to the hospital at 2.30pm. Surgery went well. Was only under anaesthetic for 30 minutes. YAY. Home by 7.30pm.
- Next two weeks were spent largely reclining on the couch recovering. No walking allowed. Needless to say we had a quiet Christmas. I did manage to cook a few things (of course!).
- Today – have an impressive 10cm scar on my thigh, it’s healing well. No trace of cancer. Thank goodness. I am very lucky. I am ridiculously grateful.
Oh, and in case you are wondering, the most painful bit was the top of my hand where the drip went in! No pain with my leg, just a bit of discomfort. Phew!
So, what do I want YOU to do.
A few things.
Please be aware that melanoma is cancer. Cancer can kill. Melanoma does kill. I was very lucky. Had I not gone with my gut, had I waited until April, maybe melanoma would have killed me. I’m glad I didn’t have to find out.
Don’t be blasé about it. Lots of people die from this.
1,500 Australians die every year from melanoma.
Australia has the highest rate of melanoma in the world and 12,500 new cases are diagnosed in Australia every year. One in 17 Australians will be diagnosed with melanoma before the age of 85.
Be aware of what the freckles, moles and other splodges on your skin look like. If they change get them checked. Get your GP to check your skin at least once a year. Your GP can refer you to a dermatologist if they have concerns.
Slip. Slop. Slap.
Slip on a shirt. Slop on some sunscreen. Slap on a hat.
If you aren’t sure about what hours it’s safe to be outside, then download the SunSmart app put out by the Cancer Council. It’s one of my favourites AND it’s free. It’s available for Apple, Android and Samsung.
Invest in sunscreen. Use it. Every day. Even in winter.
We only have one life. Please look after yours.
For more information about melanoma please visit the Cancer Council website.
Massive thanks to everyone who treated me, helped allay my fears, lent me books and DVDs, entertained me – my GP Dr Sue-Ellen Silburn, plastic surgeon Dr William Cockburn, all your staff and colleagues, and everyone at Brisbane’s Wesley Hospital, Shaun, Ronan, other family and friends, my twitter and facebook family for your love and condolences, the Australian cricket team for playing such great cricket (although I would have appreciated a couple of 5 day tests…). I’m very grateful. xxx
Please slip slop slap.