Lifestyle

The sun gave me cancer

After years of sun exposure on the ski field, Angela Hampton learned the hard way how important it is to protect your skin.

After years of sun exposure on the ski field, Angela Hampton learned the hard way how important it is to protect your skin.

I've been skiing every year since I was four, so I guess I was exposed to more sun than I should have been. I wore sunscreen most of the time, but unfortunately I did get sunburned. Skin cancer is one of those things you don't think you're going to get. I didn't think it would happen to me.

The first change I noticed was a little pimple just underneath my eye that wouldn't go away. I thought it was unusual, but I left it for a few days (which turned into weeks). It seemed to be growing, so I thought I may as well get it checked out. My GP said it was probably just a cyst and nothing to worry about.

A few weeks later, while I was on holiday in Byron Bay, I noticed the lump was still growing, so I went to visit a cancer specialist for a biopsy. He called a week later saying it was a skin cancer that had to be removed immediately.

I used to be a registered nurse, so I contacted a doctor I'd worked with to see whether he knew anyone who specialised in removing skin cancers from the face. He put me in touch with a great plastic surgeon, and, after my first consultation to review the cancer and see how he was going to remove it, he booked me into a day surgery for the procedure.

On the day, I was put under general anaesthetic while they removed the cancer as well as a chunk of my skin. When I woke up, I had a big bandage on my face, and my cheek was numb.

That night, I was in pain and felt miserable. I had to remove the dressings the next morning, which was scary because I had no idea how big the scar was going to be. It turned out I had two big black eyes and my face was so puffy, I didn't even look like me. I had 20 stitches and the scar looked huge. It was a reality check on what I'd actually been through and how serious it was.

When the doctor first told me I had skin cancer, I was like, "Okay, I'll deal with it", but when he said it was the type that could spread, I started to think about what would happen if it was life threatening. It was scary because I work for CanTeen (The Australian Organisation for Young People Living with Cancer), and I know about the sort of treatments our members have.

People think a tan makes you look healthy, but the sun does the opposite: it ages you, damages your skin and, later on down the track, you will get skin cancers. Now that I've been through it, it's crazy that we have this perception that the sun makes you feel and look better, because it won't, and that's a fact.

As told to Marie- Issa

*The model in the photograph is in no way related to this story.

*Names have been changed.

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