Not everybody's melanoma journey starts with a suspicious mole or lesion and that was certainly the case for me.

March 18th 2018, already a significant day as it is the anniversary of my mums passing in 1984 aged just 43 from breast cancer. Having woken from a nap I felt quite sore in my armpit. On examination I discovered a lump about 2cm long. I immediately went online and made a GP appointment for the next morning. At that appointment I was given a course of antibiotics and told to return if there was no improvement.

A week later I returned to a different GP this time and was referred on a fast track appointment to be seen within two weeks, April 9th I was seen at the breast clinic and following a breast examination, bloods, mammogram, scan and biopsy. I left feeling quite sore but assured that everything possible had been done that day. A week later and results were in, I had cancer but until further tests were done it wasn't clear which type of cancer. I was booked in for various scans but other than having a CT scan all others were cancelled as five days later came the news that I had metastatic melanoma.

The following few weeks were a whirlwind of appointments for a PET scan, dermatology and oncology and the decision from the surgeon to operate on May 18th 2018. The six hour surgery went well and I was discharged after two days with one of the two drains in situ. The drain came out within two weeks but an infection had started to develop.

My heart sank as this would mean a delay in treatment. It took six weeks of packing the wound to close it, thankfully it was numb and I didn't feel anything. During this time I had an extensive eye test due to having no known primary. July 3rd, my birthday, eight hours with blurred vision and not even had a drink!

I had the report that 23 lymph nodes had been removed, eight of which had cancer in them. More than I expected but less than it could have been. Move forward to August 14th 2018 and being all healed and radiotherapy can finally begin.  At this point, Immunotherapy had not been generally approved for stage 3 melanoma patients but Four weeks of daily treatment was tiring but completely manageable with my husband by my side every step of the way.

May 2021 - Three years on and I continue to be well. Nobody tells you at the start about the amount of appointments that will consume your life. Three monthly MRI brain scans, CT scans, Dermatology, Bloods and oncology. You live from one appointment to the next. Year two gets easier with all appointments moving to six monthly. Having clear results becomes the most important thing.

When people say "it's just skin cancer", they have no idea of the rollercoaster we live on. Skin cancer is not always just skin deep.

Pauline Elliott