I'll never forget sitting with my friend in the hospital and being told that it was cancer. Being diagnosed was the scariest experience of my life. Still, to this day I really find it difficult to express how much of a shock it was, just because you hear stories all the time and the word 'cancer' fills you with fear. You think, 'it won't happen to me'.
It all started one night when I was moisturising my shoulder and I noticed a tiny, pinhead spot. I thought it was a blackhead caused by my fake tan and gave it a squeeze to see what happened, but it didn't feel right. I started to monitor it over the new few weeks and could see it was getting bigger and bigger so, I went back and forth to the GP about three or four times but nothing was picked up. It was no fault of my doctor that it wasn't picked up straight away; it just shows that skin cancer can appear in a variety of forms. It was only when I got it removed a few months down the line that doctors broke the news that I had skin cancer and it was diagnosed as Stage 3 Melanoma.
After I was diagnosed with malignant melanoma, it was just a few weeks later until I was in surgery to have the mole removed. I had 5cm of the radius of skin around the mole on my shoulder removed along with lymph nodes out of my neck and underarm, as the consultants were worried that the cancer may have spread. Luckily, those results all came back clear and I didn't require chemotherapy or radiotherapy. I'm one of the lucky ones. So, now I have three scars on my body that show the experience I've been through.
Since being diagnosed and having my surgery I always have to keep a close check on my skin. I have to go back to the hospital every three months for check-ups and I need to keep an eye out myself, with self-checking at home, to make sure that there are no swollen glands in my neck, feeling any hard areas, inspecting my underarms and groin area.
My melanoma didn't show the characteristics of the standard, classic melanoma cases. I just had a gut feeling that something wasn't right.
It's a year on from being diagnosed and I've been helping the Nuffield Health Glasgow Hospital to support its #BeMoleAware campaign to promote self-examination of moles. I thought it was a great idea, because it's educating people with easy to understand tips and advice through the website and encouraging them to self-check to spot the signs of melanoma for early diagnosis.
Based on my experience, the main message I would give to people is that they need to regularly check their body and know their body and, if they notice anything different with their skin or moles, I urge them to get it checked out as soon as possible.