I couldn’t believe my mole turned into stage 3 melanoma in a month
Laura noticed a mole had changed overnight, which was later diagnosed as stage 3 melanoma. Her skin cancer quickly spread and she needed surgery to remove more growths. Throughout her treatment Laura trained to run the Manchester half marathon, raising money for Teenage Cancer Trust.
I’m a pale person, so I’ve always made sure that I put lots of sun cream on and I avoided sunbeds. I had over 50 moles and I always kept an eye on them.
In the middle of May 2020, I noticed that one of my moles had changed overnight. It hadn’t altered in size, but it went from brown to almost black and it had turned really hard. It felt like I had a small stone in my leg.
I took a picture and sent it to Ask My GP straight away and I was given a video consultation. They didn’t see me in person but referred me to Dermatology straight away. I got an appointment a week later.
I was given a punch biopsy, which is like a hole puncher which took it out. I did get some comments like: “Oh you’ll stay out of the sun now” and “did you find out while sunbathing?”. I was also told that I was under 25 so it should be fine. I don’t think they were being intentionally mean or unhelpful, but there needs to be more tact and education.
When they first tested the mole, the results came back inconclusive, so they did a second biopsy and took out a larger area. While I was waiting for those results, the mole had been tested again and they found out that it was stage 3 melanoma. I had always thought that it was the big moles that you had to worry about – those larger than a rubber on the end of a pencil – but mine was really small, so I’m glad that I still got it checked out.
Tracie McVeigh, Teenage Cancer Trust’s Outreach Nurse for the region, was there for my diagnosis. It helped to have her there right from the start as she was present for the rest of my journey. She was a cancer nurse before joining Teenage Cancer Trust, so she was really knowledgeable and could answer any questions which I had. Sometimes doctors and consultants talk in quite medical terms, so Tracie was able to break it all down for me and explained it well. She was there whenever I had a wobble.
I had to have surgery to take out an even larger area and had plastic surgery on my leg. They also took a node out of my groin and tested that. Tracie came to visit me during my surgery, and it was nice to have her support.
I had always thought that it was the big moles that you had to worry about
After the first surgery, I was confused about the results and getting stressed out as I couldn’t understand what they were saying. I had been told that the cancer was stage 3 melanoma, and I was really worried. I couldn’t believe it had gone from me spotting it to stage 3 in less than a month. Tracie called mum and made sure she explained it all to her and checked that she understood so that mum could explain it to me once I’d calmed down. She told my mum not to focus on what stage it was at and gave her reassurance that it would be OK. It really helped that she took the time to speak to my mum directly and my mum wasn’t getting second-hand information, especially when I was stressed out.
I had keyhole surgery to remove some lymph nodes and I took four weeks off work to recover. In addition to that, I had a further six biopsies in various areas. Altogether I’ve been left with 11 scars ranging from 1cm to 3cm all over my body. The ones on my stomach are still purple and angry. The one on my knee has caused me to lose some flexibility. I’m not keen on my scars, but they wouldn’t stop me wearing a dress.
I was due to run the Manchester Marathon in April 2020 but due to the pandemic it was rescheduled to October 2021. Running has always been important to me and played a key part in keeping me going throughout my diagnosis, treatment and recovery. I was lucky enough to run throughout, despite sometimes only managing one mile due to the mental battles and the struggle of getting out of the door. I ran the marathon and raised £1200 for Teenage Cancer Trust.