Hi, my name is Fran Ross.
Outgoing, pro-active, positive.
I've had many Basal Cell Carcinomas and five melanomas. The first melanoma was forty years ago, in my mid-thirties; my GP validated my concern about a mole on my forearm and removed it. Then I had annual checks by a dermatologist.
After my mother died of melanoma in 1995, her specialist advised me to have six-monthly checks. In 2003 I went to work in Europe, where regular skin checks are not a "normal" part of the health system, so every year I paid to go to a Mole Clinic in London for a check. Following my eventual return to Australia, one of my first actions in 2011 was to visit a Skin Cancer Clinic, where the doctor biopsied a spot on my ankle and identified a melanoma. Because it was large and near my Achilles, I needed a plastic surgeon. He took a skin graft from the opposite thigh - which was more painful during recovery than the melanoma site!
A few years later, the Skin Cancer Clinic diagnosed three more melanomas on one day: two on my upper arm and one near my eye. I went back to the plastic surgeon for the one near my eye. After all that I was on three-monthly watch.
When I was a child, nobody mentioned skin cancer. We went bushwalking and swam a lot. My mother would say, "Don't get burned. You'll be sore." My siblings and I used to peel the dead skin of sunburn from each other's backs, like snake-skin, laughing because it tickled.
These days, avoiding full sun is my outdoor priority. Last year I had radiation following surgery and chemotherapy for breast cancer, and the radiation makes skin even more sensitive. I also have lymphoedema in my arm from the surgery; so while gardening or going for a walk, I need to reduce exposure to sun and to scratches or insect bites, to avoid cellulitis infections. Long sleeves with SPF 50+ protective fabric are a must, especially in the garden. I use SPF50+ cream every time I go outside. I love big hats and long, loose clothing, but I need to be careful to use sun protection on the back of my hands, and on my feet and lower legs too.
I wear a long-sleeved rashie when swimming.
Thanks Fran, for sharing your story with us and our Solbari Community.
The Solbari Team
Over the coming weeks, we will be publishing some stories from the Solbari Community to help raise awareness about skin cancer, melanoma, skin conditions and sun protection.
If you are interested in sharing your story, please answer the following questions from the relevant questionnaire and send us a picture of yourself being sun safe in the outdoors.
Your skin is your largest organ and has a long memory. Sun exposure and ultraviolet (UV) damage is cumulative throughout your life. Research shows that sun damage contributes to more than 90% of wrinkles, brown spots, premature skin ageing as well as precancerous and cancerous skin lesions.
Limiting sun exposure is very important, as the UV rays cause the most damage to the skin. It often takes many years and sometimes decades for the effects to become visible.