Tracy, 50, from Beverley, East Yorkshire, was a regular sunbed user and never really took sun safety seriously until she developed skin cancer six years ago. Tracy is now sharing her story to help raise awareness of the importance of protecting your skin from UV rays.
Tracy said: “Looking back, I never thought of the risks involved of sitting in the sun or using a sunbed. I always thought of a tan as looking healthy but now I know, there’s no such thing as a healthy tan, a tan in fact shows that there’s been damage to your skin cells from UV rays, so it is far from healthy.”
Tracy had always been aware of a mole on her arm and had previously asked her GP to look at it. At the time the GP had no concerns. Towards the end of 2016, Tracy noticed that the mole had grown and had lost its colour in the middle. It had irregular borders, was around 1cm wide and was dry.
Tracy said: “I told a colleague at work, who insisted that I got it checked, so I made an appointment with my GP at the start of February 2017. The GP used a Dermatoscope to take a closer look at the mole. She said she would refer me for further investigations, ‘just in case’, little did I know how serious things were to become.”
Tracy saw a consultant approximately two weeks later and was told that her mole needed removing immediately. She was scheduled for surgery on 26th February 2017.
Tracy said: “The next few weeks went by and as time went on, I thought everything must be okay. However, on 9th May 2017 I was delivered the devastating news from a Skin Cancer Nurse Specialist, that I had malignant melanoma skin cancer. I was petrified as my friend’s brother had died following a skin cancer diagnosis.
“However, the nurse was excellent, she gave me lots of information and was available for any questions I had. I was also offered counselling at the Queens Centre at Castle Hill Hospital in Cottingham.”
Tracy needed to have the surrounding margins from where the mole had been, removed. She recalled: “I was due to fly to Florida that week, I considered cancelling, but had a very excited nine-year-old at home and my consultant told me to go and enjoy the holiday.”
Tracy was booked in for surgery the day after she returned from America. The wide local incision meant she had to have the biopsy scar and surrounding tissue removed. Tracy explained: “The surgery was done under a local anaesthetic, and I had a six-inch scar on the top of my arm, but it was worth it to know that the cancer was potentially gone.”
Five weeks later, Tracy received a call to say that everything was clear. She continued to be seen for another year for observations. During this time a biopsy was taken on another mole, which was benign.
In 2019 Tracy was discharged from NHS care, but now sees a dermatologist privately, and has had six more moles removed.
Tracy said: “I now wear factor 50 sunscreen all year, and although I do still holiday abroad, I stay out of the sun in the shade, and cover up. To be honest I prefer sitting in the cool with a cocktail!
“If I could give advice to anyone, it would be that there is no such thing as a healthy tan. Protect yourself with clothing and a high SPF, do not sunbathe and never use sunbeds. It really is not worth it.”
Find out more about skin cancer, sun safety and the steps you can take to protect yourself on the Skcin cancer charity website.