Mother of three with mole on leg says ‘my friends and family saved my life’

For about a year, whenever she got dressed, Rachel Wynne noticed the large mole on her left leg. Halfway through her knee and groin, it looked like a patch of dry skin.

“It didn’t hurt or itched and it didn’t bleed. I’d put a moisturizer on it, assuming it would take it off,” says the mother of three from Dublin.

Rachel, who works as a receptionist at a beauty salon, always intended to mention it to the doctor on her next visit, but never got around to it. “In that year I was probably at the GP four or five times, never for myself – it would have been for the kids. Every time I left and thought ‘oh, I never mentioned the mole’.”

In 2018, a week before attending her sister Rebekah’s wedding in Portugal, she was trying on swimsuits in her bedroom when her husband, Garry, commented, “That thing on your leg looks really funny.”

He wasn’t the only one with concerns. “There was a big gang of family in Portugal for the wedding and every day by the pool a different person said ‘what’s that on your leg? You should have that checked’. I was so tired of everyone telling me I covered it with a band-aid.”

By now the mole had changed in appearance. “It went from dry skin to an upbringing. It looked like a raisin, a little wrinkly and bubbly. My husband said it looked multicolored when the sun was shining on it. From my perspective I couldn’t see that – I just could see it was black.”

Once home, Rachel made an appointment with a dermatology clinic, where the doctor said it looked like “textbook melanoma.” He referred her to the Blackrock Clinic for a biopsy.

“Even then, Garry and I weren’t thinking in terms of serious illness. We thought ‘they’ll just remove it – it’s okay’.”

After a 10-day wait, Rachel, then 46 years old, was told to bring someone with her on the day she got the biopsy results. “I knew then it was cancer. And the doctor said, unfortunately, it was bad news, it was melanoma and it was deeper than they expected.”

Rachel was referred to Beaumont Hospital and had a wide leg excision and sentinel lymph node biopsy in October 2018. It was the height of the CervicalCheck controversy, and she waited six weeks to find out if the cancer had spread. “After the first clear result, they wanted a second opinion just to be sure,” she says.

She got the fantastic, clear news the day her sister, Leah, celebrated her 40th birthday. “We had a great night,” recalls Rachel, now 50 years old.

For the next three years, Rachel was checked every three months and three moles were removed – no cancer. “Now I am checked every six months. After that it’s five years a year, but my dermatologist plans to bring me back every year or two because of my history and the number of moles I have.

Rachel has completely changed her behavior around the sun. “I always wore sunscreen on holidays, but probably not at home in Ireland unless it was really sunny and I was at the beach. Now I always wear sunscreen. I stay in the shade. I wear long sleeves, long pants and a hat On vacation, I put on a thicker layer of sunscreen.”

With her youngest child, Danny, 10 – she also has Chloe, 23, and son Jamie, 20 – it can be hard not to be out in the sun. “When we’re on vacation, Danny wants me in the pool with him. When I come in, it’s for 10 minutes. Then I’m out, more sunscreen on and I’m covered again.”

Rachel is very aware of the need to protect the skin from UV rays and takes every opportunity to spread the word. “Probably I annoy people. If I see someone with sunburn or tan lines, I tell them to be very careful. A lot of people don’t want to hear it.”

Rachel is extremely grateful for the happiness she has had. “I have met people through Facebook who had the same cancer as me, but not the same result.

“I am so grateful to my friends and family. They really saved my life.”

Rachel Wynne who was diagnosed with stage 2 melanoma in 2018 with her dog Gizmo Photo Moya Nolan

What we need to know

Donna Spillane, cancer nurse at the Irish Cancer Society, outlines what we need to know about skin cancer, which consists of melanoma (more aggressive) and non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC) and is the most common cancer in Ireland.

Warning signs:

For melanoma, think alphabetically – ABCDE (asymmetry, border, color, diameter, evolving) are the characteristics of skin damage that doctors look for when diagnosing melanomas.

Asymmetry: Melanoma is often asymmetrical – shape is not uniform. Noncancerous moles are usually uniform and symmetrical in shape.

Border: Melanoma often has borders that are not well defined/irregular in shape. Noncancerous moles usually have smooth, well-defined edges.

Color: Melanoma lesions are often more than one color/shade. Benign moles are usually one color.

Diameter: Melanoma growths are normally larger than 6mm in diameter – diameter of a standard pencil.

Evolution – Melanoma will often change characteristics (size/shape/color). Unlike most benign moles, melanoma tends to change over time.

If you have a suspicious mole/lesion, see your doctor. Most are not cancerous but best get it checked out. Spotted early, most skin cancers, including melanoma, can be cured.

Risk Factors:

-Ultraviolet (UV) light from sun exposure, including exposure to sunlamps/tanning beds. UV radiation causes DNA damage in our skin, which can lead to skin cancer. UV is usually strongest in Ireland between 11am and 3pm from April to September, even if it is cloudy.

-Regular sun vacations, working outside the home, playing outdoor sports, or severe sunburn/blistering as a child/teenager can increase the risk of developing skin cancer later in life.

-Yellow skin that freckles or burns easily, with blond or red hair and blue, green or gray eyes.

-Having a large number of moles or moles that look unusual.

-Age: The risk increases with age, but skin cancer is increasingly common in younger people.

-Family history – having a relative with skin cancer.

Follow the SunSmart Five S’s of Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek and Slide to ensure you are prepared/protected in the sun – see:

#Mother #mole #leg #friends #family #saved #life

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *