I have always had a lot of freckles and noticed that one on my calf had changed – it was bleeding, itching, and had become darker.
Although I asked my friends “What do you think this is?” I put off doing anything about it for a few weeks.
As I live in a country town, I had some difficulty getting an appointment with a local skin specialist, so made an appointment to see him in Sydney. He removed the suspicious spot the same day.
I was really shocked and scared when the specialist called to say it was a melanoma. I was only 23 and I had no idea what would happen next.
The surgeon I was referred to found that the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes, and I had all the lymph nodes in my left leg removed. A month after the lymph nodes were removed I felt very unwell and had a rash.
I didn’t know what was wrong and ended up hospitalised with an attack of cellulitis in my leg. I had a second attack of cellulitis shortly afterwards. After my surgery I participated in a clinical trial. I still have to deal with mild lymphoedema and some scarring from the surgery, and have regular check-ups with my doctor.
Connecting with others through social media really helped me deal with my feelings of isolation. It was difficult being treated in Sydney away from home, but sharing my story with others helped me to open up doors and build relationships.
I found the whole experience very overwhelming, but now have a new appreciation for life.
I place a lot of importance on healthy eating, being active and staying out of the sun. I’m more aware of my own body and the need to get any changes checked out straightaway.