My name is Vicki Crowe, I am 30 years old, and I was diagnosed with Stage I malignant melanoma (less than 1mm thick) on July 4, 2013.
When I was 16, I moved into an apartment situated next door to a sunbed shop – I guess looking back that is where it all started. From the age of 16 to 24, I would use the sunbed at least three times a week, usually for 9-12 minutes. As I approached the wrong side of 25, I reduced the amount of time I spent on the sunbed as I noticed premature ageing to my face and neck area. However, I still continued to tan at least once a week. I couldn’t bear to be without a tan, and I really didn’t care about the health risks – I thought I looked good.
About 6 years ago, my mother was diagnosed with melanoma. She underwent surgery at The Christie Hospital (which is a specialist cancer hospital in the UK). She was left with a huge scar of about 6 inches to her arm and was under hospital care for the next 3 years. I am so ashamed to say this now, but even that was not enough to stop me from using sunbeds. I couldn’t understand why my mum used to get so upset about me getting a tan – I was selfish and unsympathetic, all in the name of vanity.
About 12 months ago, a small mole appeared on the bottom front of my left shin. I didn’t really think anything of it as I do get new moles quite often. Over the next 6 months, I did see a change in the mole – it was dark, almost black, and raised. Things did start playing on my mind a little bit, but I put it to the back of my mind and continued to use the sunbed. Then, I was out one evening and I looked down at my leg and I just noticed that it had grown dramatically – probably doubled in size. My partner insisted that I see a doctor, so I made an appointment. My doctor said that it did look suspicious so he referred me to the dermatologist at the hospital.
I saw the dermatologist within 2 weeks, and straight away she wanted to remove it to be on the safe side. A few days later I got a call from the hospital asking me to go in that week. By this point, I was pretty sure I was going to be told it was cancer, and panic hit me. I was right….the diagnosis on the 4th of July was melanoma. I was referred to The Christie Hospital for a wide-excision, performed by a plastic surgeon.
Skipping forward to 2 weeks ago, I underwent surgery at the specialist cancer hospital. It was really scary and daunting to be in that environment with people around me suffering with cancer. I felt so guilty, as my cancer was completely self-inflicted, whereas other people were there through no fault of their own. I had my surgery under local anaesthetic, and believe me that was scary – watching, feeling everything that was going on.
I am now still in recovery mode. I have not been able to drive for 2 weeks or even walk very far. I have become reliant on my friends and family, and I have been depressed and fed up with being isolated to my house. I will be left with a scar about 4 inches long.
I await my results from the biopsy in 3-4 weeks time, but I am feeling positive that the results will be ok.
I am now becoming an expert on fake-tan application! I wish I had just done this from the start, then I wouldn’t have had to go through this pain and had my family worry over me. I will forever worry about new moles appearing or changes to my skin. When I hear my friends talking about using sunbeds, it really hurts me inside but I feel like I can’t say anything because I didn’t listen to people in the past. So please, if you are reading this – please don’t use sunbeds and be extra safe in the sun!