Posted by Cairin: April 2013
21-year-old Nathan Holscher from Torquay, Victoria recounts his experience of a melanoma diagnosis just last month. This is his story:
One morning, I woke up with a sense of urgency about going to see a doctor. I remember putting my hand to the side of my neck thinking, "I need to have this checked out."
My fingers were pressed against a small freckle-like spot. I had another two similar looking spots but for some reason I wanted this particular one looked at.
I called, booked an appointment and one hour later I was lying on a table in the doctor's surgery with the spot cut out and listening to the doctor explain to me that he had to cut it out. He told me it was quite possibly a melanoma but that he hoped it wasn't as melanomas have the potential of being extremely dangerous.
I left the doctor's in complete shock. Earlier that morning after booking the appointment, I felt stupid for even thinking about having my skin checked. My skin never burns and I don't go outside with the sheer intention to tan. In my mind, it was going to be a waste of time seeing a doctor. I even almost cancelled so my friend and I could head to the beach an hour earlier.
The following week I got a call from the doctor. I heard nothing except the words, "abnormal melanoma cells, cancer, spreading, cut, can't delay" and then he says "Do you know a skin cancer specialist you would like to move forward with?" I hung up the phone, absolutely gob smacked.
The next few weeks of testing and waiting and cutting felt like the longest weeks of my life. Melanoma cancer is one of those things that you always hear about. I never thought it would affect me or anyone I knew. Like so many people, I always just thought that skin cancer is just the "get it cut and it'll be fine" kind of thing. But that's not the case at all.
My doctors told me that I was lucky enough to have caught it early. I've thought to myself over and over again, what would have happened if I never went to the doctor that morning? I was just weeks out from sitting summer exams at uni and after that I would be starting the new semester. It would have been months until I got around to having it checked. Where would that leave me? I feel very lucky to have gone to the doctor when I did and I'm so incredibly stoked that they could chop it all out. I wish everyone went early enough to get the same result I did.
I'm the first 21-year-old that many of my friends and neighbours have come across to have been diagnosed with malignant melanoma. It makes me so happy to know that learning about my experience has made so many of my friends and my friend's friends go and get their skin checked.
We've all downloaded the SunSmart app on our phones and there's a bottle of sunscreen by the door of my house. No one steps outside without slopping on loads of the stuff! I always wear sunscreen and a hat now and I always will. I wouldn't wish my experience on anyone. It's frightening to be told at 21 years of age that you have cancer and the worst part is it's so preventable. We all know what to do to prevent it, it's just a matter of actually doing it.