Rachel Wynne first became aware of a large mole on her left leg in 2017. Rachel, who was 46 years old at the time and who lives in Dublin, noted that it looked like a patch of dry skin.
“I used to see it every day when I was getting dressed,” she says. “I’d look at it and say, ‘that looks a bit funny’. I kept meaning when I was in and out of the doctor's with the kids but I never did. I just completely forgot each time.”
In July 2018, Rachel’s sister got married in Portugal and a large group of family and friends went over for the wedding. “Every single day, sitting at the pool, someone would say ‘what’s that on your leg?’ When I came back from that holiday I made an appointment with a clinic to get it checked.”
The doctor who examined her mole advised her that it was likely to be melanoma and referred her for a biopsy straight away in the Blackrock Clinic.
“I got the biopsy in September and the results came back that it was melanoma but that it was deeper than they had initially thought. I was then referred to Beaumont Hospital where I had a wide leg excision and a sentinel lymph node biopsy in October.”
Rachel then waited for six weeks for the results to come in to see if the cancer had spread.
“It was a very stressful time but in December 2018, I got the fantastic news that the results were clear.”
She needed check-ups every three months for the next three years, during which time she had three more moles removed, which thankfully were not cancerous.
“I have a lot of moles so they’re not sure if the melanoma was a mole that I’d always had that changed or whether it was a new mole. I didn’t know because before I wouldn’t have been looking out for things like that,” says Rachel, who used the Irish Cancer Society website to find information about skin cancer after her diagnosis. “They keep a close eye on me and the dermatologist said she will probably always want to see me. She plans to bring me back every one to two years because of my history and the amount of moles that I have.”
These days, Rachel is vigilant about protecting her skin from the sun. “I wear sun cream all the time. If I go on holidays now, I wear Factor 50, long sleeves, a hat and I’m sitting in the shade – my husband says I’m like the Invisible Man,” she says. “It can be hard. I’ve a 10-year-old and he wants you to be in the pool with him. If I get into the pool, it’s for 10 minutes and then I’m out, more sun cream on and I’m covered up again.”
She would like everyone to be aware of skin cancer risks and how important it is to protect your skin from UV rays.
“You see people and they’re so into their tans and their appearance, and they don’t realise,” she says. “My leg is covered in scars and I’m very conscious of that when I’m on holidays in a swimsuit. For something that people are doing for vanity, a tan could end up as something much worse in the long run.
“A sunny day here and people are out the back, roasting themselves. I work in beauty and I tell people they should be wearing sun protection all year round and they look at you like you were mad. I feel very strongly that people are unaware of the dangers of melanoma and how serious it can be. I feel very lucky to remain cancer free.”
Contact the Irish Cancer Society Support Line
If you have worries or concerns about cancer, you can speak confidentially to an Irish Cancer Society Cancer Nurse through the Freephone Support Line on 1800 200 700.
Monday to Friday, 9.00am - 5.00pm
For more information