I am not quite sure when I first became aware of the dark patch on my chest, I guess I only even noticed it was there when it started to itch. Being in my early twenties, my life was all about having fun, so I didn’t really pay attention to something so small – I had a fair few moles and freckles so I assumed it was just a dark mole and put it to the back of my mind.
Fast forward a few months more and the itching was a bit more frequent and the dark patch seemed to have grown slightly in size. “Get it checked” was the comment from Tom, my then boyfriend, but I didn’t waste the GP’s time and seem like I was causing a fuss over nothing. A couple more months flew by and at Christmas I’d noticed it had grown and bit more so finally resolved to get it checked in the New Year.
The GP referred me to the local hospital to see a chest and breast doctor. A few weeks wait and a brief consultation later the Consultant’s prognosis of “let’s take it off” was followed by another hospital visit for the biopsy. I went home afterwards thinking that would be the end of “Malcolm”, as the dark patch had been christened.
Sunday evening a couple of days later, and our film watching was interrupted by a phone call. The Consultant explained that he had the biopsy results and that I had a malignant melanoma – I needed to come back to the hospital as soon as possible for a further biopsy and investigations. Reeling in shock, and not really knowing the implications, Tom and I phoned our parents and then spent the rest of the evening on the internet, researching all we could.
The next few days were a teary blur of trying to work, missed sleep and worrying about what might happen. This second biopsy required more stitches due to a larger amount of skin being taken, and more healing due to the positioning of the cut in the middle of my chest. Thankfully, a few more days later the Consultant reported that they had taken a significant amount of skin to remove the whole melanoma and that it had been reached in time before it spread.
Hugely relieved to have reached what I thought was the end of Malcolm in my life, I thought things would just revert back to how they were. I am enormously grateful for the quick response of the doctors and I was incredibly lucky that the melanoma hadn’t progressed to my lymph nodes – things could have been so much worse if it had.
Life has moved on – I’m now married to Tom, we have moved to our forever home and have two gorgeous girls, but I don’t feel that I will ever be truly rid of Malcolm. I hadn’t anticipated the worry that stays with you – the 6 monthly check ups with the Consultant, always careful about sunshine and having high factor cream, checking my skin all over regularly – but it’s a small price to pay. Since Malcolm I’ve spotted another dark patch and had another biopsy, which was determined to be benign, but I was told that it had the potential to turn cancerous, so I need to remain vigilant.
When I was diagnosed with malignant melanoma I struggled to find consistent information or resources that could advise on the condition and its treatment. Hopefully, the great work being done by the people at Story will raise awareness of skin cancer and develop resources and treatments that will help patients and their families who are affected by it.