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Sun Awareness Week - Danielle Walker

Sun Awareness Week - Danielle Walker

Date of release: 7 May 2021

“You’ve got to keep an eye on your moles – don’t think skin cancer can’t happen to you. Even if you are fit and well, you must get them checked if they change colour or shape.”

That’s the advice of 27-year-old Danielle Walker, who was diagnosed with a malignant melanoma after years of sunbed use. But it was only after watching the Stand Up to Cancer Gogglebox special, that Danni thought to get her mole checked out. 

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She explained: “I had this mole in the middle of the back for years, but never really took notice of it. During this Gogglebox episode they were sharing real-life cancer stories where a girl had died from mole on the back of her leg.

“I’d not long had my son so was up in the middle of the night doing his feed, and I couldn’t stop thinking about. I asked my partner if my mole looked different or abnormal, but it’s so hard to tell when you’ve not really been taking notice of it beforehand.”

So on her baby’s eight week check-up, Danni asked her GP if she thought it was anything suspicious. Here, she was urgently referred to a dermatologist who spotted the melanoma straight away. The mole was removed there and then at the hospital, while results later showed the mole to have been the earliest stages of melanoma, also known as ‘melanoma in situ’.

“I feel really lucky that I got it checked out when I did, as it could have been a terrible outcome,” said Danni, who lives in Essington. “If it’s an advanced melanoma they have to check your lymph nodes to see if it’s spread, but thankfully we’d got it early enough to prevent that from happening.

“It was a really scary time for me and I remember thinking, this is going to be bad not just for me, but for my family. My son was a baby and if something happened to me he wouldn’t remember me. The worst-case scenario flashed through my mind, but thankfully it never got to that point.”

When asked what she thought may have led to this point she replied: “I would use the sunbeds every so often, before a holiday, before a birthday etc., and I’m sure they won’t have helped. Plus I would use tingle cream and baby oil while sunbathing to try and get a nice tan, but I was literally frying myself!

“I’m definitely not going on the sunbed again now. In-fact I get a better tan from a bottle!”

After a successful procedure, Danni has since had check-ups with Andrea Smith, our Clinical Nurse Specialist for Dermatology. Here, Andrea has looked for any new or changing moles, as well as examining the scar of the previous melanoma looking for any evidence of recurrence.

When asked what she would say to other people not looking after their skin, she said: “You don’t think it will ever happen to you but it can. You’ve got to take precautions, wearing sun cream instead of baking your skin.

“Especially for young people who are doing it to feel good about themselves, it’s no good in terms of aging and it will make your skin look tired after a while. 

“My Dad also had melanoma when he was young, so if you’ve had anyone in your family who has had melanoma or skin cancer, I’d recommend you check yourself over just to be sure.”

The healthcare support worker now takes regular photos of her moles, meaning she can keep an eye on the changes through picture comparison. This is something she recommends others do in order to help them identify any signs of moles growing in size or changing in shape.

She said: “My mole was in my back so I didn’t really have any clear photos of what it had previously looked like, but through regular photos and by following advice on the NHS website, I am better informed on when to get a mole checked out.  

“I am a big sun worshipper and I love going on sun holidays and this doesn’t mean I’m going to stop going abroad, but I am more careful and have educated myself on what to look for. I’d advise others to do the same!”

Thanks Danni for sharing your story!

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