Tony’s experience: Spreading skin cancer awareness
By Cancer Council NSW
Tony Forster has been a keen golfer ever since his dad introduced him to the sport. While golf may be his favourite hobby, Tony is very passionate about sun safety. Tony is especially passionate about this because of his dad’s experience with skin cancer, and Tony is at high risk of skin cancer himself.
Tony’s family’s experience with skin cancer
Growing up, Tony was very familiar with the words “skin cancer”. His dad experienced many skin cancers that had to be surgically removed. Back then, sunscreen was far less prevalent, and there wasn’t as much awareness around skin cancer prevention. Unfortunately, one went undetected and spread to his lymph nodes.
“I saw him go through surgery and treatment. They had to remove all the lymph nodes on the left side of his neck, and they left him basically with just his jugular bones,” Tony remembers.
Tony’s dad was later diagnosed with cancer in his bladder and liver. After living with cancer for 18 months, he died at the age of 63.
Tony’s first skin cancer diagnosis
Although Tony has always taken sun safety seriously because of his dad’s experience with skin cancer, he has since had skin cancers of his own. His mum picked up the first one after she noticed something unusual on his cheek.
“I wasn’t happy with hearing the news obviously, but I also wasn’t hugely upset. With my family history, there’s always been a bit of an expectation that I might get a skin cancer,” Tony says.
In total now, Tony has had about seven or eight skin cancers. He has since had to have roughly 20 different treatments for these cancers, including Mohs Surgery and excisions.
Tony’s mission to live well and spread the word
Tony is grateful that none of his skin cancers have become too serious because of his love of sport. For Tony, it’s all about being sun safe to reduce his skin cancer risk so he can keep playing golf and soccer. He’s also aware of the importance of knowing his own skin, so if he does develop a skin cancer, it can be managed as quickly as possible.
Among his family and friends, Tony also isn’t shy of being ‘the sun safe’ uncle. As he puts it, “I’m the uncle that shows the scary photos of scars and stitches with the nephews and nieces – always in a very jocular manner, of course. Whenever we’re outside, I break the sunscreen out and there’s a collective groan, so I say, “don’t make me get the photos out!”
Tony’s taken his passion for sun safety to his golf club, Bathurst Golf Club. It’s also a small way of honouring his dad. He’s become a champion for Improve your long game, Cancer Council NSW’s free sun protection program that helps golf lovers stay sun smart. And since 2019, he’s fundraised every year in The Longest Day, an all-day golf challenge to raise funds to stop cancer. This year, he’s hoping to get more golfers involved and raise even more funds.