Three young people living with cancer are sharing their stories to help Australians protect their skin this summer and beyond.
Veronica, Laurie and Monica are all very different, and yet they’re all very much the same, united by a common experience.
One was a tradie working outdoors. One was a Twilight fan being nagged by her mum. One was only 20 when she noticed a mole on her calf.
Today, however, they’re all living with cancer, and they all have messages for young people just like them.
“We get one body, we get one self and we don’t get a do over. If you muck it up this time and if you don’t look after the body and the skin that you’re in, then that’s time you’re going to waste.”
Veronica was first diagnosed with skin cancer when she was 20.
She found a small mole on her left calf, no bigger than a Texta dot. Over a fortnight it changed.
She was diagnosed with stage 3 melanoma, with extensive surgery to follow.
“I tell people I love them all the time. I like to hug people. I like to smile, because my time here is precious, the world’s precious and people are precious,” she says.
“It’s really important that we look after ourselves.”
“The sun’s a vicious thing at times, it provides life but it can also cause you a lot of damage if you’re not paying attention. Cover it up and be wise and don’t cook yourself in the sun.”
A builder, Laurie spent lots of time outdoors in his 20s. While he would often cover up, he could also forget sometimes.
“I’ve always found I was pretty good at putting it (sunscreen) on my arms and my face, ‘cause that’s where I always felt like I burnt the most,” Laurie says.
“I was also probably slack at putting on sunscreen at certain stages of life, definitely slack on putting it on my legs,” Laurie says.
He noticed a mole on his leg that he thought he should get looked at. On seeing a doctor it was found to be melanoma which had spread to his lymph nodes.
“I definitely wasn’t thinking it was going to happen to me, then all of a sudden…”
“If I could speak to 16 year-old Monica, I would say don’t worry about it. Don’t worry about being tanned now, it’s not important.”
At 24, Monica’s mum noticed a mole on her chest.
After some nagging she eventually went to the doctor, and he straight away spotted the same mole. On getting her results, Monica was rushed to surgery.
“That’s when my life kind of shifted and it all became about prevention and talking to other people about it and educating myself about it, which was the most important thing.”
“Very luckily it hadn’t spread into my lymph nodes, so in that way I was very much one of the lucky ones because it would have been a whole other ball game if it had.”
Your Time in the Sun
Your Time in the Sun is the latest campaign aimed at reducing the rate of skin cancer in NSW, encouraging young people to protect themselves daily.
The focus is on increasing millennials’ awareness of the seriousness of melanoma, a disease which can affect not only the skin, but the lungs, brain, heart and bones.
Preventing skin cancer in Australia forms a key part of the NSW Cancer Plan’s goal to reduce cancer across the state.