I never worried about sun exposure until I got skin cancer

Kassandra Barker


Kassandra, a cruise ship dancer, was diagnosed with skin cancer after starting to worry about a mole. After needing surgery to remove three other moles, she is raising awareness around skin cancer signs and encouraging people to get checked.

Kassandra Barker

I’ve had a mole on my arm since I was about two years old, and it had looked the same for as long as I could remember. I usually work as a dancer on cruise ships, so I’m not usually at home for very long. During lockdown, because I was at home for a long period of time, I thought I should get the mole checked.

I don’t really know why I felt I had to get the mole checked. I just had a gut feeling something was wrong. Due to Covid, they were taking initial appointments over the phone. Because the mole hadn’t changed, I exaggerated a bit on the phone to the GP and told them it had got bigger so they would see me. I just had this overwhelming feeling something was wrong.

The doctor I saw in the first appointment didn’t think it was a mole – she wasn’t sure what it was. However, when she went through the ‘ABCD’ check for moles, looking at asymmetry, border, colour, diameter, and it fit into every single category, so she referred me to a specialist to have it looked at.

Kassandra mole

Because they need to take part of the mole to test it, they decided to remove the whole thing right at my first appointment. I was told someone would be in touch with the results in the next week or so. After a week, I still hadn’t heard anything from them so I rang up to ask what was going on and see if I could get the results. They said, “Oh, has no one contacted you yet?”, and asked me to go into the hospital straight away. All my friends were saying it would be fine, but I was worrying because I knew it was a pandemic and they wouldn’t ask me to go into hospital if it wasn’t important.

The doctor told me it was melanoma and that I’d need another operation around where the mole had been to check they’d removed all the cancerous cells. I went back down to the car to tell my mum. At first she almost didn’t believe me, then was really sad that she hadn’t been there with me.

I used to be really into sunbeds and sunbathing and I really want to people to understand how serious melanoma can be.

Kassandra TCT

The second operation took me a little longer to recover from. They went another 5mm in depth and 10mm in width around the site where the mole was to make sure they’d removed all the melanoma. It meant I couldn’t use my arm or hand for a while. I’m usually really active and keep myself fit, so not being able to exercise for a while impacted my mood.

Throughout the pandemic I’d also been looking forward to going back to dancing and travelling on cruises. It had been the one light at the end of the tunnel, so having that taken away by cancer was a blow and impacted my mental health. Since the start of the pandemic, I’ve been doing lots of what we call “muggle jobs” like working as a server or in Amazon warehouses. Dancing is what I love doing, so I can’t wait to be able to do that full time again.


I started fundraising for Teenage Cancer Trust and I feel like it’s given me a purpose and something really positive to look forward to. I’ve done loads of little events like teaching a dance class and donating my earnings and hosting a mini-beauty pageant. I’m competing in Miss International this year, and though we’re not required to raise money for charity I’m using it as platform to raise awareness and money for Teenage Cancer Trust.

I think it’s so important that people know how important getting moles checked is. Even though I was working out at sea, I never really worried about my sun exposure and would think nothing of sunbathing on the deck before the evening shows. I used to be really into sunbeds and sunbathing. I really want to people to understand how serious melanoma can be. I’ve run Q&As on my Instagram about melanoma to help raise awareness of symptoms and encouraging people to get themselves checked. I’ve had a couple of people get in contact and say that they booked an appointment because of me which is just really satisfying.