Newcastle born Rachel is a drama and visual arts teacher as well as a photographer and actor with two wonderful children. She remembers the day an overdue skin check changed her view on life.
“I expected to be checked and be on my way but the doctor appeared alarmed when he looked at a spot on my leg for a second time and told me I needed to have it removed. He told me in no uncertain terms that I must have the spot removed as soon as possible and when I saw the words ‘Urgent’ stamped on the referral to the surgeon it shook me up.”
Further surgery was required after a post-surgery biopsy revealed it was in fact a malignant melanoma. Another lesion was discovered during the second surgery, and Rachel was sent for a PET scan to rule out further spreading in her body. “This was the fuzziest time in my life, I’ve never felt more confused. Thankfully, the PET scan came back clear and so I just needed to wait for further biopsy results”.
After her wound became infected, yet another round of surgery was required, followed by three months of home nursing as well as hospital visits to maintain the vacuum on her leg to help heal her wound. “I was lucky, but it kept me in that space of worry and uncertainty. My leg has now healed and I have a scar which I am very proud of because it reminds me that I am here and I have a second chance to live this life to the best of my capacity.”
Rachel wants to be able to help people, especially youth, to understand what melanoma is and spread the word of living a sun smart life by getting regular skin checks. “The Speakers’ Hub places a real person with firsthand experience of melanoma before the audience. It makes the disease real and helps people to realise anyone can be impacted by this at any time of their life.”
“It’s a unifying experience being able to hear the stories and experiences of others as well as share your own story. It helps with the healing process as although you may have physical markers – scars, radiotherapy ink marks, hair loss, etc – and these may fade over time, the heart holds onto those moments and it changes your perspective. If you’re able to help someone process the pain, the power and the shift it’s a truly wonderful thing.”