Personal · Rant

Melanoma – You know it can kill you, right?

Please read the comments before reading the first paragraph of this post. I jumped on something someone said and took it the wrong way and seem to have got things arse about face. Either way, the main content of the post still stands, just not the catalyst that got me writing it.

Apologies for the provocative title, but I’m feeling rather provocative and I need people to listen.

Yesterday, I read a tweet that bemoaned the lack of sunbeds available by 9.30am. I replied somewhat snarkily and said that I was amazed that people even use sunbeds these days. Maybe I shouldn’t have been snotty, I don’t really know the Tweeter in question and I guess people are free to do what they like, but after watching someone I love die from a disease that can be caused by these machines, it makes me wonder why the hell anyone would go near them?

Lorraine was an otherwise healthy 40-year-old woman when a ‘dodgy mole’ on her leg became malignant. I’m not sure if she used sunbeds, I think she said she had once or twice, but she lived in Jamaica for a portion of her adult life too, enjoying the sun and the easy way of life.

Lorraine’s mole was removed and as she had an aggressive form of melanoma, the doctors removed her lymph nodes in her right groin too as this was the logical place for the cancer to spread to. Unfortunately for her and us, although she had no lymph nodes for the cancer to attack, it went to her brain and her lungs instead.

She had radiotherapy which made her lose her hair and had just been accepted onto a trial for a new drug when the cancer got the better of her. The melanoma in her brain (and yes, when melanoma spreads it’s still a melanoma, unlike other cancers) caused her to have seizures, become confused and made the pressure in her skull build. On the day she died, I stroked her face and was amazed by how hot she felt. They explained that the pressure around her brain was giving her a fever.

Lorraine died 20 days after her 42nd birthday. Melanoma killed her.

This post may seem harsh or insensitive and if my Dad or Lorraine’s family ever read this, I hope they understand the intention behind this post.

Melanoma is not just about having a mole removed and moving on. Melanoma is aggressive and it can end your life. Think about this next time you decide you want a tan at any cost. Think about this next time you look at your kids and decide not to wear sun screen.

Some facts about Melanoma:

  • Unlike most malignancies, malignant melanoma is more common in women than men. In 2008 it was the sixth most common cancer in females. Between 2007 and 2008 malignant melanoma moved from the ninth most common cancer ┬áin males to the sixth most common. This is due to an extra 600 cases being diagnosed in males in 2008 than in 2007.
  • In 2009 in the UK, 2,633 people in the UK died from skin cancer.
  • If diagnosed at stage 1A, 88% of patients will live for 10 years. If diagnosed at stage 4, that number becomes 7-19% living past five years.
  • Overall, people from higher social classes tend to have better survival rates than people from lower social classes.

I know this may be a shocking or depressing post for the Easter weekend, but if I can make just one person wear sunscreen when they go out in the sun, I’ll have done something really important.

11 thoughts on “Melanoma – You know it can kill you, right?

  1. Great post Jayne. Most people don’t realise that there are more than one form of skin cancer and that while the two more common forms are often (although not always) easy to treat, Melanoma is actually an incredibly serious and very aggressive form of cancer with poor survival rates even compared to things like breast cancer although it is much better known. A very scary disease but something that most of us can easily avoid if we’re sensible.

  2. I have to admit, I was just full of anger now but it’s probably nothing to do with your post. I have other things going on in my life and I saw red at this.

    I hope we both understand where we are coming from now x

  3. It was me that tweeted it and was meant to be tongue in cheek about all the German holiday makers who took up all the sunbeds. I didn’t mention the Germans in said tweet as didn’t want to be accused as a racist. In fact all I wanted to do was sit under a parasol and read my book whilst killing time before catching our flight.

    I am well aware of the dangers of melanoma as my grandfather had it. I also never leave the house without sunscreen 365 days of the year. And not for nothing, I was also on a well deserved holiday as I was in the hospital the previous week. I also suffer from severe vitamin d deficiency so I need a bit of sunshine from time to time.

    I’m sorry if you were offended by my tweet, it was not intentional.

    1. I have to say, after I wrote this post I went back and re-read your tweet and did wonder if you meant that type of sunbed. I’ve been planning to write a post about melanoma for some time and this was just a total knee-jerk reaction on my part and a catalyst to getting the whole thing on the page.

      I really hope I haven’t offended you and I hope you understand why my reaction was so extreme. I would never begrudge you a holiday, in fact I’ve been drooling over your Morocco pictures over the last couple of days! I sometimes forget to make the connection between people’s Twitter and their blogs, so even after reading your post it didn’t occur to me that it was your tweet.

      I am sorry, I plan to amend the first paragraph of the blog post to reflect my mistake.

  4. I have been RT your post alot. As you know, I have a redhead too and he burns really easy so will be constantly smothered in sunscreen.

    I think this is a very admirable post and I hope people take in your words before they go out in the sun.

    I used to use a sunbed when i was in my teens and i wasnt fully aware of the risks. My dad then had a mole removed and quite a scare and it shocked me and i’l never go near a sunbed again. Risking your life for a tan is so not worth it.

    Thankyou for writing this post x

    1. Thanks Laura, I really appreciate all of the retweets and shares, it means a lot to me. Its very hard not to come across as sanctimonious when writing a post like this and it’s only fair that I say that I too went on a sunbed once. I was 16 and had my first full time job, which just happened to be two doors down from a tanning salon. I went in for 6 minutes, came out burnt and it freaked me the hell out so I never went back.

      I don’t know if you remember but I also has a mole removed last year. I didn’t tell many people but I think having knowledge of the disease made me extremely paranoid and although I was told the mole looked okay by a dermatologist, I still had it removed, just to be on the safe side. I now keep an eye on every mole and blemish and get any little thing checked out. Some people might see this as extreme but I just don’t think there’s any such thing as being too careful.

  5. Agree with TheBoyandMe. You’ve done well posting this. Melanoma doesn’t ‘take a break’ for Easter. Some people are spending Easter with someone who has cancer right now! Your post brought a tear to my eye. I hope more people avoid the sun after your post or wear sunscreen if they are unable to (as in those living in sunnier climates).

    1. Thank you, I agree. The weather is starting to get brighter and people seem to be obsessed with being as brown as they can possibly be, even if they’re quite fair naturally. I’m quite happy with the fact that I’m pale, I live in England! My daughter is a redhead and will be smothered from head to toe in sunscreen as soon as she needs it.

  6. This is a brilliant and much needed post! Never fails to amaze me how some people risk their lives in pursuit of beauty. I think that you have done an admirable thing here in using the death of such a precious member of your family to highlight such an important cause, there is no way that your dad or Lorraine’s family can be cross with you for this.

    1. Thank you, that means a lot to me. I tend to be one of those people who gets a bee in their bonnet about things and ever since Lorraine died, I’ve been wanting to do something to help or warn other people. I’m doing Race for Life again but somehow just raising money doesn’t seem to be enough. xx

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