I’m pale-skinned and I got sunburnt a few times over the years, probably more as I got older and it was my responsibility to buy sun cream rather than my mum’s! I thought of sunburn as an expected side effect of going abroad or sitting in the garden at home. In fact, I remember joking when I got sunburnt in Florida that I'd probably get skin cancer one day.
I rarely sunbathed because I found it so boring, so I'd forget to put on suntan lotion when I was out and about. When I did wear it, I'd apply it first thing in the morning and not bother doing it again for the rest of the day, even after swimming. However, I never used sunbeds.
I first noticed an angry red lump on my arm in September 2010 when I was 20. It wasn't painful, but one day I accidentally knocked it and it bled for an hour-and-a-half. It didn't look right, but my GP told me it was nothing to worry about and I was referred to a skin specialist.
The lump was removed a month later but in the following days the wound started bleeding and oozing pus. I had some routine tests and was horrified to hear six weeks later that I had skin cancer.
I was treated at Castle Hill Hospital in Hull where I had surgery and had to have a skin graft from my thigh. It was then doctors discovered the cancer had spread to the lymph nodes in my armpit and these were all removed leaving a small hole and a further scar. Thankfully, after a third operation, examinations showed no further traces of cancer and I went back to university where she was studying music.
A while later, I found another small, solid lump near my elbow. I knew immediately something was wrong. I'd been told to watch out for any unusual lumps and bumps, so I went straight back to the hospital. They removed it the next day and doctors explained it was an 'in transit reccurrence,' which means it was part of the original tumour that had been removed. It was frightening that it had recurred so quickly. It was a stage 3C melanoma, one of the most serious types.
Life after cancer
I don’t currently need any further surgery but I regularly check my skin for unusual lumps and bumps. I go for check-ups every three months and CT scans for 6 months which will last for ten years. As result of the various surgery I have lost all feeling and strength in my left arm due to nerve damage, and I have a foot long scar.
Now I look back getting sunburnt was silly and avoidable. I now support Teenage Cancer Trust’s annual sun safety campaign Shunburn to help spread awareness of the dangers of sunburn.