Another very brave lady, Louise Chugg, tells us her story :  and the message of ‘it’s not just skin cancer’  rings true, yet again.  Thank you Louise, for sharing your story with us.

In this picture I was living with melanoma unaware and oblivious. After this holiday the mole on my right arm started to change. I am a ‘moley’ person however there was something ‘different’ about this one. It was becoming raised – more like a wart in appearance. . My five year old son kept saying to me “What’s that on your arm mummy?” and when it started bleeding and itching I made a routine appointment with my GP.

“It doesn’t really look like anything to worry about” the GP said, but she referred me to the dermatology clinic at my local hospital, who called me that afternoon and arranged to see me within 2 weeks. When I saw the consultant there, he didn’t say much he agreed it could be a wart, but ticked a box on the form on his desk saying skin cancer suspected and arranged for me to have it removed just after Christmas.

It was removed on the 27th December, a quick operation under local anaesthetic. I waited 2 then 3 weeks for the results and started to feel relieved, they would have told me by now if it was serious I thought. I eventually got a call asking me to come back to the clinic the following day – “I can’t make that appointment”  I said to the lady on the phone, “I have an important work meeting”.  I should have realised the seriousness in her voice, “Louise, we really need you to come in that day please”.

I went to the appointment alone, not realising how serious it could be.  “You have a malignant Melanoma” the nurse said. The rest of the appointment was a bit of a blur and through tears I took my Macmillan Cancer Pack and was moved down the corridor for blood tests. When I got home I read the paperwork. I had a nodular melanoma, It was 2.2mm in depth which sounds small but in mole depths means it was large enough to have reached the lymph system I had lymph invasion and micro satellites that were showing a few mms away from the mole. I was at stage 3b.

I still didn’t get the seriousness of it, it’s ‘just’ skin cancer I kept saying. I was called for various appointments really quickly. I had a ct scan to see if the cancer had spread to my organs, when I got there the radiographer was so apologetic, “I’m so sorry you’re here”….. “why I asked? It’s just skin cancer.”

Thankfully my ct scans were clear, I was then booked in for a wider excision of where my melanoma was and then a lymph node biopsy, this was an hour long operation under general anaesthetic they ended up removing 2 lymph nodes during surgery, and I now have 2 impressive scars! “You’ll have your results back in 4-6 weeks” said the surgeon. I was signed off work for 2 weeks but unable to stay away I was back at my desk a couple of days later.   

The 6 weeks of waiting were agonising, at this point I started googling and the prognosis for Stage 3 Skin cancer wasn’t great.  I have a five year old son and at this point I started worrying for his and my future.

On the 16th April, just  a few days ago, I met with my surgeon again, she obviously knew I was worried as her first words were “It’s great news.”  I had no further cancer in my scar or in the 2 lymph nodes removed. I’m still Stage 3B but my prognosis is so much better than if it had spread to my lymph nodes. There is a chance I’ll get another melanoma or it could come back somewhere else, but I’ll be seen in clinic every 3 months to catch it early if it does.

I wrote this, not for sympathy, but to try and raise awareness –  when you Google for information about a mole, the most common signs to check are  the ABCD – for asymmetry,  border, colour, diameter, one of the main reasons I didn’t go to the doctors was because my mole passed all of these tests –  it was symmetrical, with a neat border, was pinky white in colour and not very big. I googled images of benign moles and moles identical to mine were there.

I want to make people aware to remember the EFG too, elevated, firm and growing  and also you know your body/skin better than anyone else so please if something doesn’t feel right please get it checked out!

Three things I have learnt from this are when you get a cancer diagnosis you realise you are stronger than you think, you are loved more than you know and……… its not ‘just’ skin cancer!