Thirteen years old, covered in dirt and a total tomboy. But I was still daddy’s little girl.
I remember following him around everywhere like a lost sheep. I would ‘help’ him on the farm – to be honest this involved sitting on the scorching hot tray of the ute in the blazing summer sun watching him fix a fence or herd the cows. Then at night I would follow him to his basketball training and watch him practise. Sometimes the men would even let me join in, allowing me to score goals easily so I would be under the impression that I could keep up. It was a simpler life.
I had followed him to a basketball game one night, as I was his biggest fan. He got hit pretty hard but he got back up. He was okay.
When we got home that night he mentioned to mum that he was a bit sore underneath his arm. Nothing to worry about.
In the following days dad went to the skin specialist for a regular check up. Upon inspection, the specialist discovered a little lump the size of a pea underneath his arm.
By the next morning the pea had grown into a golf ball. But I’m sure it’s okay.
Dad wasn’t so sure. He called up the skin specialist and booked another appointment. She confirmed his fear. Cancer.
It started as a tiny little mole. I was there at the clinic with dad when the specialist first spotted it. She cut it out just to be safe. I even helped her hold the little jar she placed it in. Nothing to worry about. It was tiny. That was until it was a golf ball. A pea to a golf ball over night, that’s how quickly it grew. And it grew and spread throughout his lymph gland (under his arm). And then dad was gone.
Did you know that Australia almost has the highest rate of skin cancer diagnosis in the world? According to the Cancer Council, “more than 2,200 Australians died from this almost entirely preventable disease in 2013”.
The key word here is preventable. So don’t be an idiot. Put on a hat, chuck on some sunnies, stay out of the sun and of course slip, slop, slap.
It is also important that you check your moles regularly. Be on the lookout for any moles that change size, colour or shape. Getting a mole buddy can be a great way to check out those hard to reach spots such as your back and scalp. If you notice any changes, get to your nearest skin specialist as soon as possible. It is better to be over cautious.
Luckily for me, dad came back. He had been undergoing surgery in Sydney to remove all the cancer from his body. It could have been a lot worse but he caught it in its early stages. He was alive.
He confessed to me on his birthday this year what he had told the doctors while he was undergoing surgery. “Ten more years. That’s all I want. Ten more years to watch my daughters grow up”.
It’s been six years. I hope he has more than four years left. But imagine finding yourself in a situation where you are left begging a doctor for time. Time that they may not be able to grant you. Five more years. Seven months. Two weeks. Please, I just want one more day…
It doesn’t matter what age you are. Melanoma kills all. Young and old. It doesn’t discriminate. So this summer why not rock the pale, moon tan look or even whip out a bottle of fake tan and go full orange. It’s better than being dead.