Kate Moloney was diagnosed with skin cancer at the age of 19. She was stunned by the news, still reeling from her father’s death from colon cancer just three years earlier.
It started with a freckle on my right calf when I was 16,” she says. “I pulled on it and it bled, then I didn’t do anything about it until I was 19. By then it had developed into a black, bumpy, itchy growth about the size of a dime.
“I was going to see the doctor for a chest infection and my mum insisted I get the GP to look at my lump too, she didn’t like the way it looked,” the Clare woman told the Sunday independent.
The doctor recognized it as a potential melanoma and sent Kate to a specialist. Her worst fears soon came true. Her counselor recommended surgery to remove it.
“I actually had cancer at the same time as my dad,” says Kate. “We both had it and didn’t realize it. My father was diagnosed and died six weeks later.”
To the relief of Kate and her family, her surgery was a success and the cancer had not spread. Shortly thereafter she went to America after being offered a job playing the flute and accordion in a traditional Irish music group.
“I repressed everything that happened to me, including the death of my father, I didn’t process any of it emotionally. I just ran away from it all. I was young and just couldn’t handle it, so I didn’t.”
Seven years later, Kate was back in Ireland and completing a Masters to become a primary school teacher.
“I noticed I had a lump in my groin. I didn’t want to believe the cancer had come back. But my surgeon warned me well since the first cancer that if it came back it would most likely be in the groin.”
Kate’s worst fears came true for the second time. “I felt like I was walking the plank,” she says. “But I’d be dead if I ignored it wouldn’t be here.
“I suddenly had to deal with an explosion of emotions. I was very angry and sad, I tossed and turned for a while. When I found out the cancer was back I bought a six pack of cider and drank it.”
What followed was a physically difficult series of surgeries and medical complications. Emotionally, Kate realized it was time to deal with the ramifications of her father’s death and the emotional toll of her own cancer diagnosis.
“I’m cancer-free now,” she says. “I’m in a so much better place too, and that’s because of the therapy and dealing with all the things I refused to address when I was younger. The cancer at the end “That was a good thing. I’m much happier now.”
Kate is now a patient advocate for the HSE #SunSmart campaign, which raises awareness of the prevalence of skin cancer.
“My message is if you have a lump or something that doesn’t feel right against your skin, get it checked out. Don’t feel like a hypochondriac. I almost waved him off twice.”
Skin cancer is the most common cancer in Ireland, with almost 13,000 cases per year. But it’s largely preventable by protecting our skin from the sun and other artificial sources like tanning beds, according to Selene Daly, clinical nurse on dermatology at Sligo University Hospital.
Latest research shows that skin cancer rates in Ireland will double by 2040.
“Every day from the beginning of March to the end of September everyone should put on sunscreen. Even when the sun isn’t shining, UV rays penetrate through the clouds,” says Ms Daly.
For more information, visit hse.ie/SunSmart and #SunSmart on social media
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/news/heartbreak-at-19-a-freckle-turns-into-skin-cancer-41626588.html Heartbreak at 19 – a freckle turns into skin cancer