Growing up, Lizzie May was not sun smart.
Lying in the sun, at the time, was what everyone did. The now 48-year-old said she had burnt skin “every other day”.
Sadly, she paid the price. In 2015 Ms May noticed a mole on her upper middle thigh. With summer approaching, she decided to have it removed.
Days later tests revealed it was nodular melanoma, with Ms May’s doctor quickly scheduling surgery for a wider excision on her thigh, to prevent the melanoma from spreading.
“When they did the first operation, I had severe nerve pain because they cut so deep,” she said.
“I woke up from the surgery and I was shocked.
“For the first three months after I just shuffled along.
“It was really difficult to even walk with the nerve pain.”
Unable to walk or work, Ms May relied heavily on her daughter Angie Durrant.
In year 10 at the time, Ms Durrant said she had to grow up quickly. Between school commitments, she became her mother’s nurse and also helped care for her two younger sisters.
Thinking they were through the worst, in April 2016 a routine check-up revealed Ms May’s melanoma had spread to her sentinel node and the lymph nodes in her groin.
This required further surgery and another long recovery period for stage three melanoma. At the same time, Ms May learned that her cousin, Donna Probyn, had also been diagnosed with stage four melanoma.
Ms May said the entire family rallied together to get through their treatment, surgery and recovery.
Now both cancer free, the family continues to fiercely advocate for skin cancer awareness.
Ms Durrant, now 19, is the organiser for this year’s Launceston Melanoma March, which aims to raise life-saving funds for melanoma research.
An initiative of the Melanoma Institute of Australia, the event will take place on on March 3 at the Heritage Forest Trail.
The most common cancer affecting people aged between 15 and 39, each year more than 14,0000 Australians are diagnosed with melanoma.
Ms Durrant said seeing what her mother went through had changed her life forever.
“Melanoma is always on my mind,” she said.
“It is one of those things where you think – it’s just skin cancer, you cut it off and it’s gone.
“But I don’t think a lot of people realise that it does spread, and just how harmful it can be.
“That’s why raising awareness is so important.
“We need to change the culture.”
- For more information, to donate or register for Launceston’s Melanoma March, visit launceston.melanomamarch.org.au.