How a stranger saved my life… And now I want to save yours

Two years ago, a total stranger may have saved my life. Now I feel like it’s my responsibility to share

Two years ago, a total stranger may have saved my life. Now I feel like it’s my responsibility to share this health warning with people like you too.

Growing up, I always played in the sun. These were the days before “slip, slop, slap” became such an important message. I’d spend hours by the beach without even thinking twice!

Apart from the occasional sunburn, I never really had a problem with my skin though. As I aged, it got softer and pigmented a bit, but nothing out of the ordinary.

At least that’s what I thought! One day, a trip to my local shopping centre changed everything. Has something as serendipitous happened to you as well?

I was lining up at the Deli to order some ham and olives, when a mother in 30s tapped me on the shoulder. “I’m sorry to bother you”, the young mum said.

“I just thought I should let you know… You’ve got a funny looking spot on the back of your neck”. Maybe I seemed shocked, because the young lady went on.

“I work at a mole clinic you see, I’ve looked at so many different pictures… Maybe just get that one checked out”, she finished.

Rubbing my neck, I was instantly worried. Had I noticed a spot back there? The skin she’d pointed too was just beneath my ear, how long could a spot have grown for? Who even looks behind their ears?

“Thank you so much for telling me,” I said, heartfelt. Without her, this issue could have gone unnoticed. I was so grateful a stranger had stopped to care, even though I felt sick with concern already!

The woman gave me a business card for the mole clinic where she worked, and then took her kids to the fruit section. “No need to thank me”, she said as she hurried off.

Looking back now, I realise this was my “little miracle”. Such a tiny exchange can change your life, and that’s why I feel obligated perhaps to write this piece.

I booked an “urgent” appointment at the mole clinic, mentioning the lady’s name and saying that she’d noticed a spot on my neck.

Before the appointment, I studied my neck using two mirrors. A small dark freckle was hiding behind my ear, and I didn’t remember it looking so “obvious” before then. Touching the spot, it felt dry and scaly.

Within a few days though, I had my results. “It’s a Stage 1 melanoma”, the doctor confirmed. “You’re lucky we caught it so early though! Another six months, and this could have been much worse”.

I couldn’t believe my stars! If that lady hadn’t taken the time to speak with me, a complete stranger, I could have been facing even more serious skin cancers!

As it was, the doctors removed that melanoma spot from my neck. I also needed biopsy results, to confirm no other skin in the area was affected.

It was a scary experience, and not something I ever want to go through again. Feeling like your body is “under attack” is a horrible thing. Fear of “the unknown” is even worse.

Thankfully, my results came back all clear. This truly was a blessing, and I’m so grateful for my “second chance”. For the next two years, I went back for regular biopsies around every three months.

One day, I encountered the lady who had helped me working at the mole clinic herself. “Thank you SO much for letting me know about that spot”, I said again.

“It means so much that you took the time to help”. She wouldn’t accept my praise though, saying it’s ‘just what people do’.

The truth is though, a total stranger might have saved my life. Now I want to pass this message on to you: Always slip, slop, slap and PLEASE take care in the sun.

Check your skin regularly, and if you’ve got any worries, head straight to the doctor. Don’t let these things wait until it’s too late. This could be YOUR second chance.

Has a “little miracle” like this ever happened to you? Do you have regular skin checks? Isn’t this story remarkable?

Starts At Sixty readers can get more information about skin cancers HERE.

  1. Gosh,that was so very lucky! Thank you for passing on the warning. We can’t see the back of us so ask a partner or friend to tell you,like this lady did, if they notice anything. I also ask my hairdresser to keep her eye open,as I’ve heard you can get them on your head.

  2. What a gift that was and how brave for a stranger to speak up. My mother’s melanoma was stage 4 when she was diagnosed with metastases. What a cruel disease and what a horrible death she died. I am so pleased for this wonderful outcome for the writer. People need to be aware of amelanotic lesions too and although we will never know, this is quite possibly what my mother had as her primary was never found.

  3. My Mum’s hairdresser noticed an unusual spot on the back of her neck. Trip to doctors and then Melanoma Unit at RPA meant my Mum is still with me many years later 😊

  4. That was certainly fortunate. I have had my fair share of skin cancers and the last time I was sunburnt was when I was 15. I go out in the sun early or late for the Vitamin D factor in summer or in small bursts any other time. Skin checks should be done regularly. My dermatologist says I belong in Wales.

  5. Do I have regular skin checks? Yes. And yes I’ve been having BCCs and SCCs removed for 35 years.

    The worst was a SCC which became aggressive and its removal was a high priority. Skin clinic on Friday morning, Oncologist that afternoon, theatre for a general and removal Monday morning, hospital for 3 days. Removed a piece of my lower left leg 60mm in diameter and 12mm deep and applied a skin graft.

    Then in the next 10 weeks I went to see a doctor 23 times.

    I now have a rather large scar on the back of my lower left lag and a larger one on my upper right thigh where they took the skin for the graft from. The most pain during that period was from the spot they took the skin. Showering was interesting as both wounds had to be covered so that they would not get wet.

    So folks, get in there and have your complete body checked at least once a year. B|

  6. all our lives we are taught to mind our own business, learning to speak up is a gift we should discover early.

  7. I have poor skin for our Australian climate and suffer the result with 2 Melanomas with Clarke level 2 and 3, mostly due to being burnt when very young. We need to look out for each other as well as ourselves, especially as we age. My wife saw the first Melanoma on my back and I didn’t know it was there, she saved my life.

  8. i usually find the ones that need burning off or cutting out but it is a bit hard when they are on you back and sometimes in places you can’t feel for them either so i get them checked periodically by my GP. i hope i meet someone as nice as you did to tell me if she sees something i should have checked. enjoy the wonderful time you have now.

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