Janine Venter, Stage II
I have always been pale and have had a number of moles and freckles. I have never been one to tan and have always stayed out of the sun. I had a biggish mole on my back and decided to have it checked out. I went to see a skin clinic and was told the mole was nothing to worry about but that I could arrange to have it removed for cosmetic reasons if I wanted to.
I was a student at the time and busy, so I kept delaying it even though the mole was big and ugly. I kept telling myself that I had had it checked out and it was fine. When I got my yearly check up card in the post, I arranged an appointment. When I went, the dermatologist told me it needed to be removed immediately.
A few days later I got the call to come in for my results and was diagnosed with melanoma. The big, ugly mole had at some point turned into melanoma. I went to see a specialist and was referred to the public hospital. I had surgery to remove wider margins as well as sentinel node biopsies from lymph nodes under both my arms. In total, 9 nodes were removed and thankfully all came back clear. I was diagnosed with stage 2 melanoma.
For a year, I had check ups every 3 months. I had to wait for 2 years before I was declared in remission. Since then, I have had 2 more very small stage 0 melanomas removed. I also now suffer from lymphodema due to the removed nodes. I am thankful every day that my yearly check up caught my melanoma. It was not as early as it could have been but many of my doctors have told me how lucky I was that it had not spread further as it was already a level 4 melanoma and had grown a lot and was quite deep.
I was 28 years old when I was diagnosed and have no family history of melanoma. Currently, I still have skin checks every 6 months and I do not expose my skin to the sun almost at all now.