Is It All Just a Little Bit of History Repeating?
As they say, let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start.
The first time I ever heard the words ‘skin cancer’ I was around 7 years old. I was sitting in the dark with my door slightly open so I could overhear my parents. This was something I used to do all of the time. I would even be able to see the TV from my spot. I remember this is how I first started watching Sex and the City (which I wasn't allowed to see). As I sat on my bedroom floor I remember hearing my mum and dad chatting about my dad having level 4 skin cancer.
My family history of melanoma
I don’t really remember much else from that time; my parents didn’t really discuss it with me. However, I knew it was serious, because I could tell my mum was worried all the time. Plus she was forcing my dad to take some weird natural potions. Mum’s thinking was, ‘we may as well try everything, just in case!’ Thankfully after the potions and western medicine, my dad’s cancer never came back.
Many years past and skin cancer was not on my radar. Having fair skin and red hair, I used to burn easily, so I usually wore sunscreen. But I only really wore sunscreen because I didn't want the pain of the burn, skin cancer wasn't really even on my radar.
Skin cancer on both sides of the family
Then when I was a teenager my mum's brother was diagnosed with skin cancer and again, even though I was older my parents didn’t really explain much of what was going on with me. I was largely in the dark. I believe it was initially a level 3 and he had a few surgeries and that was it.
A few years passed and one day that same uncle turned up at our house unannounced. When I answered the door I immediately knew something was wrong. I called my dad straight away, "Uncle Phil has just shown up to talk to mum, I think you need to come home right now." My gut feeling was right.
Always the jokester, my uncle said "Do you want the good or the bad news first? The bad news is the cancer has spread to my brain, but the good news is, I have one!”
Then one early morning when I was 21 I got the call, "You need to come to the hospital now, your uncle doesn’t have much longer."
Take your family history seriously
Naively, stupidly, recklessly, lazily, whatever you want to call it, even with skin cancer on both sides of my family, I still thought ‘it won’t happen to me’. So, I wasn’t vigilant about SPF and I didn’t get my skin checked.
Cut to 9 years later when I finally got my first skin check and it was my turn.
How often do you speak to your family members about skin cancer?