Mum-of-three who had a mole on her leg says ‘my friends and family actually saved my life’

For about a year, every time she got dressed, Rachel Wynne noticed the large mole on her left leg. Halfway between his knee and his groin, it looked like a patch of dry skin.

“It wasn’t sore or itchy and it didn’t bleed. I was putting moisturizer on it, thinking it would take it off,” says the mum-of-three from Dublin.

Rachel, who works as a receptionist in a beauty salon, always intended to speak to the GP about this on her next visit, but never succeeded. “That year I was probably with the GP four or five times, never for me – it would have been for the kids. Every time I left I thought ‘oh, I never mentioned the mole’.

In 2018, a week before attending her sister Rebekah’s wedding in Portugal, she was trying on swimsuits in her bedroom when her husband, Garry, remarked, “That thing on your leg looks really funny.

He wasn’t the only one worried. “There was a big family group in Portugal for the wedding and every day at the pool a different person was saying ‘what’s that on your leg? You need to get that checked’. I had so many sick of everyone telling me that I covered it with a bandage.

Now the mole had changed in appearance. “It went from dry skin to uplifted. It looked like a raisin, a little wrinkled and bubbly. My husband said it looked multi-colored when the sun shone on it. From my perspective, I couldn’t see it – I could just see it was black.

Once home, Rachel made an appointment with a dermatology clinic, where the doctor said it looked like “classic melanoma”. He referred her to the Blackrock Clinic for a biopsy.

“Even then, Garry and I weren’t thinking in terms of serious illness. We thought they were just going to take it off, that’s okay.”

After waiting 10 days, Rachel, then 46, was told to bring someone with her the day she got the biopsy results. “I knew then it was cancer. And the doctor said, unfortunately, it was bad news, it was melanoma and it was deeper than expected.

Referred to Beaumont Hospital, Rachel underwent a large leg excision and sentinel lymph node biopsy in October 2018. It was the height of the CervicalCheck controversy and she waited six weeks to find out if the cancer had spread. spread. “After the first clear result, they wanted a second opinion just to be sure,” she says.

She received the unequivocally fantastic news on the day her sister, Leah, celebrated her 40th birthday. “We had a great evening,” recalls Rachel, now 50.

Over the next three years, Rachel had check-ups every three months and had three moles removed – none of them cancerous. “Now I am checked every six months. Then it will be annual for five years, but my dermatologist plans to take me back every year or two due to my history and the number of moles I have.

Rachel has completely changed her behavior in the sun. “I always wore sunscreen on holidays, but probably not back home in Ireland unless the weather was really nice and I was at the beach. Now I wear sunscreen all the time. weather. I stay in the shade. I wear long sleeves, long pants and a hat. On vacation, I put on a thicker layer of sunscreen.

With her youngest child Danny, 10 – she also has Chloe, 23, and son Jamie, 20 – it can be hard to avoid being in the sun. “If we’re on vacation, Danny wants me in the pool with him. If I come in, it’s for 10 minutes. Then I go out, put on more sunscreen and cover up again.

Very aware of the need to protect the skin from UV rays, Rachel seizes every opportunity to spread the word. “I probably bother people. If I see someone with sunburn or tan lines, I tell them to be very careful. A lot of people don’t want to hear it.

Rachel is extremely grateful for the chance she had. “I met people through Facebook who had the same cancer as me, but didn’t have the same result.

“I am so grateful to my friends and family. In fact, they saved my life.

Rachel Wynne who was diagnosed with stage 2 melanoma in 2018 with her dog Gizmo Photograph Moya Nolan

What we need to know

Donna Spillane, an oncology nurse at the Irish Cancer Society, describes what we need to know about skin cancer, which includes melanoma (more aggressive) and non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC) and is the form of most common cancer in Ireland.

Traffic signs:

For melanoma, think alphabetically – ABCDE (asymmetry, border, color, diameter, course) are the characteristics of skin lesions that doctors look for when diagnosing melanomas.

Asymmetry: Melanoma is often asymmetrical – its shape is not uniform. Non-cancerous moles are usually uniform and symmetrical in shape.

Border: Melanoma often has poorly defined or irregularly shaped borders. Non-cancerous moles usually have smooth, well-defined edges.

Color: Melanoma lesions are often more than one color/shade. Benign moles are usually one color.

Diameter: Melanoma growths are normally larger than 6mm in diameter – the diameter of a standard pencil.

Evolution – Melanoma often changes characteristics (size/shape/color). Unlike most benign moles, melanoma tends to grow over time.

If you have a suspicious mole/lesion, see your doctor. Most aren’t cancerous, but best to get it checked out. Detected early, most skin cancers, including melanoma, can be cured.

Risk factors:

– Ultraviolet (UV) light from sun exposure, including exposure to tanning lamps/beds. UV rays cause DNA damage to our skin, which can lead to skin cancer. UV is generally strongest between 11am and 3pm from April to September in Ireland, even on cloudy days.

-Regular vacations in the sun, working outdoors, outdoor sports, or severe sunburn/blisters during childhood/adolescence may increase the risk of developing skin cancer later in life. life.

-Fair skin that freckles or burns easily, with light or red hair and blue, green or gray eyes.

– Having a large number of moles or moles that seem unusual.

-Age: the risk increases with age, but skin cancers are more and more frequent in young people.

– Family history – having a family member with skin cancer.

Follow the SunSmart Five S’s of Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek and Slide, to ensure you are prepared/protected in the sun – see:

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