On Thursday, my friend was told something any Australian dreads: one of the moles on her shoulder was cancerous. Melanoma.
With melanoma, you don’t mess around. It can be fast and deadly.
The key to beating it is early detection and action. My friend was smart. She monitored her skin and didn’t delay when something caught her eye.
Her doctor was frank. Going to see him when she did just saved her life. Had she waited another six months, it would have been a very different story. My friend had to go back for another appointment the very next day and she’s booked in for surgery on Wednesday.
Australia has the highest melanoma rates in the world and despite us all being very aware of the importance of early detection, it’s pretty easy to keep putting off a check-up while we’re busy with all the other things in our lives.
Within our group of friends, there’s been an immediate response. Many of us who have been procrastinating (I’m guilty!) have already made an appointment to get checked out. Perhaps it will turn out that in going to the doctor when she did, my friend didn’t save just her own life – she might have saved someone else’s too.
Early detection. Action.
Even better would be prevention, but melanoma is a tricky thing. The thing that caused a melanoma might have happened ten, twenty or even fifty years ago.
This is why it is so important to keep monitoring your skin, even if you are incredibly diligent about protecting yourself now.
This is also why many people think of melanoma as an ‘old person’s disease’. It’s not. While the average age of diagnosis is over 60 years of age, melanomas are one of the most common cancers diagnosed in young adults. I lost a friend in her twenties to melanoma, and a friend in his thirties. Beautiful people who should still be with us, living their beautiful lives.
Start right now. Whether you’re reading this at fifteen or fifty years of age, nineteen or ninety… It’s time to pay attention to your own skin and the skin of your loved ones.
You don’t need to be paranoid. Just pay attention. Early detection.
It’s not so hard to build into your life. Check when you see your doctor. Remind your hairdresser to keep an eye on your scalp. Ask your podistrist about the soles of your feet, since strangely enough, this is a common starting point for melanoma. If you’re out at the beach or out running with friends and you see something unusual on someone’s back, legs, shoulder, back of knees, wherever, don’t shrug it off. Tell them.
Don’t forget though – it’s not only about early detection. A good friend of mine lived in India for a few years. She told me of a British expat friend who was diagnosed with melanoma while she was in Delhi. The friend shrugged it off, saying she’ll wait til she goes back to the UK to get it cut out.
Kati’s emphatic response shocked her friend: NO! You deal with it NOW!
Early detection. Action.
I’ll be writing more about this in the future, but why wait? For more information, here’s a great place to start: https://www.melanoma.org.au/understanding-melanoma/.