In 2009 I was a fairly typical woman. I’d been living in New Zealand for about 3 years, I did my fair share of partying and I worked a 9 – 5 job at a call centre for a large energy company. My life was completely normal in all regards.
My life was certainly care free, but at some stage I noticed a mole appear on my shoulder. Looking back now it’s hard to pinpoint exactly how it all actually came about. Did it spend a long time living on my shoulder, quietly avoiding my gaze? Or did it arrive with a fuss and appear with a bang? Perhaps I knew it was there for a long time but kept brushing it off as nothing major. However it went, one thing for sure is at some stage it got large enough for me to really start paying attention. This thing was ugly; it was black, raised and about the size of my pinkie finger nail.
I eventually got into the doctors office to ask about getting it cut out. At this stage, perhaps naively so, I wanted this removed mainly for the peace of mind of not have a huge ugly mole on my shoulder. Melanoma certainly hadn’t even crossed my mind. It was during this initial doctor visit that it started to dawn on me that perhaps I should have been a little more concerned. My doctor didn’t outright say I was in trouble, but she strongly hinted that I consider preparing for bad test results (they send away any removed and suspicious moles for further testing). I left feeling a little shaken but otherwise life continued on as normal for the next few days. I was told that the tests would take up to 2 – 3 weeks so I concentrated on living as I always had.
Imagine my surprise then, when just 24 hours later during my shift at work, the nurse phoned me and said that I should come into the office to receive my results. On top of this she recommended that I bring a support person. I remember feeling sick immediately, this sinking feeling in my stomach began to eat away at me during the phone call, it became clear straight away that something was pretty wrong.
All the details about what happened next are non-existent. I guess in many ways my mind sort of filtered everything out. I don’t really have any distinct memories at all after that phone call. The initial test results that were carried out reported that the mole I had was thick. Suffice to say that this was rather bad news.
After my initial diagnostic I was quickly put through the medical system. I went into the plastics unit at Waikato hospital where I had surgery to remove a large portion of skin tissue which surrounded the original mole. I also had a bunch of other small moles plus some lymph nodes removed and sent away for more tests. (Melanoma often spreads cancer around the body, starting with the lymph nodes.) Luckily nothing was detected in any other moles nor where my lymph nodes infected with the disease.
After weeks of recovery and still to this day I’m left with a large scar on my shoulder and a bundle of smaller scars around my body. The main thing is though, that I’ve remained cancer free. I’m truly grateful for the amazing support I received from friends and family.
In my case I was extremely lucky. Doctors later informed me that the malignant mole from my shoulder had grown upward away from my body and away from my bloodstream, which likely saved my life. If it had grown down into my bloodstream and body then today would be very different.
Help Fight Melanoma
My experience with melanoma has impacted me greatly. If you’re buying from us (thanks!) then please consider including a contribution to help research and fight melanoma.
- Melanoma New Zealand
- New Zealand Ministry of Health
- Melanoma Research Institute of New Zealand
- Sunsmart New Zealand
Take my word for it, having melanoma sucks! Make sure you’re aware of the warning signs and be mindful of anything suspicious. Please help us donate to the cause and seek more information from your doctor should you need to.
Nicola from Little Olive Tree