In Conversation with a Skin Cancer Survivor

Real Life Story - Skin Cancer


Lisa has come forward as a proud and fortunate survivor of skin cancer. I asked her a series of short questions in an attempt to get inside the head of a young and healthy woman to see how she dealt with such a shocking diagnosis. Cancer is a disease that has touched us all, but as this brief conversation demonstrates, we often feel that we won’t get it – it’ll be someone older, less healthy, not us. The frightening truth is very different, as you’ll soon read…

How did you discover you had skin cancer? 

I went to get a routine check up and to pick up a prescription from my GP, and asked her to check my one and only mole as it was gone quite dark, but had been like that for a while.

What was the first thought in your head when you realised you had it? 

I wasn’t tired or feeling unwell so it couldn’t be cancer, plus I was too young for cancer. Only older people got skin cancer.

Have you any regrets regarding your use (or misuse) of sun cream in your younger years?

Yes, I used low factors to get a good colour. Again I thought only old people got skin cancer.

How has it changed how you feel about skincare/suncare and sunbeds? 

We are currently working on a campaign to ban sunbeds in Ireland. If they are not banned people will continue to use them. Even though many of my friends saw me go through treatment, which was a long and tough process, as I was on treatment for a year, they still continue to use sunbeds. They say I was just unlucky.

What advice would you give to anyone who does not respect their skin as an organ, and merely sees it as an aesthetic accessory? 

Your skin is your biggest organ, but people forget that it is an organ. If we hear lung cancer we think it’s bad but if it’s skin cancer ‘it’s only skin cancer’.

You’re the mum of twins; how will you protect their skin in the future? 

I really don’t know how to answer this other than using SPF. I would hope sunbeds would be banned by then so as they don’t ever have this option. Protect them as well as I can. Teach them how to check their skin when they are old enough. Teach them to be sunsmart.

What age do you feel we should start to apply SPF to our kids?

From the minute you expose them to the sun. At the moment when we bring them out walking etc, they are always covered up and the seat cover is shading them.

What factor of SPF would you promote? 

I use 50 but I think there’s a 60 available now. I would say to never to go out with under factor 30 on your skin.

What brands you would you recommend?

I often change brands. At the minute I am using Elave because it was sent out to us to try. I don’t have a preference. I have used a lot of different brands but I just checked in my car and handbag, and I have Riemann P20, factor 50+ in both. As well as wearing SPF, I did practical things to protect my skin, such as avoiding the sun as much as possible, and never going out during peak times from 11 to 3.

How often do you apply SPF during the day?

I apply it in the morning under my makeup, but as above I avoid the sun, it scares the life out of me.