FEATURE: Protect yourself from the sun this summer
For Emily Budd, the good weather that hit the region last week was her cue to break out the suncream.
While the sudden heat left many showing off strap marks and burnt shoulders, Emily was slathering on high factors and keeping her arms covered. But that wasn’t always the case.
As a twenty-something, the Hillsborough woman loved holidays abroad, lapping up the rays with cocoa butter smeared all over her limbs, and then hitting the sun beds back in the UK to keep her tan topped up.
But everything changed in May 2013 when the mum-of-two was diagnosed with skin cancer. Emily chose to share her story this week, on Sun Awareness Week, in the hopes that it will encourage people to think twice before going out in the sun unprotected.
“Malignant melanoma, they’re not good words to hear,” says Emily with a shake of her head.
“A friend of mine noticed a mole while I was showing her some recent holiday photos and she insisted I hadn’t had it the year before when we went to Spain together. I hadn’t even noticed it, it was just a normal looking mole but very dark.
“Stupidly I didn’t go to the doctors straight away. It was a year later, when I was there for something else, that I said ‘oh while I’m here,’ and showed him the mole. He said it was probably nothing but referred me to the dermotology clinic in Hallamshire.”
Emily attended for her appointment a couple of weeks later, expecting to be told everything was fine.
“I went on my own, I honestly thought they’d say it was nothing,” says the 32-year-old.
“The doctor took one look at it and the next thing I knew, they were setting up to remove it there and then and send it off for a biopsy.
“Two weeks later I went back and the doctor told me I had skin cancer. I didn’t know what to do with myself so I sat in the hospital for a bit, then had a walk into town. I was supposed to be getting married in August so I randomly booked myself a wedding dress appointment to try and take my mind off it for a bit!”
Emily and her fiance were forced to push the wedding back, as Emily returned to day surgery to excise a wider area around where the mole had been, to ensure there was nothing left to spread.
“They cut right down towards my muscle to make sure they got it all out,” says Emily, who works in the city as a recruitment officer.
“It was tough and unpleasant, but so much better than the alternative. A friend of mine, who was also diagnosed with skin cancer, had a really bad time as hers spread and she had to have the lymph nodes removed from her groin; she’s another one who used sunbeds a lot when she was young.”
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the UK and the rates continue to rise year-on-year. At least 100,000 new cases are now diagnosed in the UK each year and the disease kills seven people in the UK every day.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, if melanoma is caught and treated early, it is almost always curable, but if it spreads to other parts of the body, it becomes hard to treat and can be fatal.
Emily had a year of check-ups before she was discharged and says the experience completely changed her attitude to sunbathing.
“When I was younger, vanity took over. I used low factors - when I used suncream at all - and used sun beds regularly. Now I’m first to tell my friends that fake tan is the way to go.
“Even in winter, if I’m outside watching my boys play football, I have suncream on my face and I slather my kids in it in the summer.
“I also make it my mission to spread the word to as many people as I can. I didn’t think this could happen to me, but it can happen to anyone. The weather at the moment in Britain is as hot as Spain so there’s no excuse for not being careful.
“I know that people don’t always take things onboard until it happens close to home, but I really hope people will hear this. I see people showing off their red shoulders on social media and they obviously aren’t aware how dangerous it is.”
Emily reveals she is also vigilant about checking her moles now.
“You can get apps for your phone that are registered with skin cancer awareness, to check your moles,” she says.
“We got a fisheye camera and my fiance checks my moles for me regularly.”
And it’s a happy ending for Emily and her family, with her rearranged wedding fast approaching this August.
“I was lucky my cancer was caught in time,” she says.
“If you have any worries, don’t wait, go to see your doctor right away.”