Wendy’s story – “I didn’t think I’d ever get skin cancer.”

Diagnosed with melanoma after her husband noticed an unusual-looking mole, Wendy Molloy is sharing her story to encourage others to have their moles checked, early and often.

“I’m 49 years old and mar­ried to an inspi­ra­tional hus­band, I’ve been blessed with gor­geous chil­dren, and I am a very proud Nana of my beau­ti­ful, spunky grand­daugh­ter. I’m a moth­er, a grand­moth­er, a wife, an aun­tie, a daugh­ter, a grand­daugh­ter, a sis­ter, a niece, a friend, a col­league and so much more, and I have been diag­nosed with melanoma skin can­cer,” says Wendy.

“I nev­er thought of the sun or being out­side as dan­ger­ous. I knew about melanoma, but I didn’t think I would ever get skin can­cer – I have no fam­i­ly his­to­ry that I know of. We live in South­ern New Zealand, which is known more for rain than sun­shine, and when we do get a good day I, like every­one, enjoy being out and about. I wear hats, cov­er up and apply sun­screen but I have been sun­burnt in the past.”

Wendy’s jour­ney began in August 2020, when her hus­band noticed a ​‘weird’ mole on her left shoul­der, and sug­gest­ed she book into MoleMap. ​“I had a Full Body MoleMap in Sep­tem­ber and fol­low­ing my appoint­ment, I received a rec­om­men­da­tion to come back in three months for a fur­ther check,” she says. ​“I went back in Feb­ru­ary 2021 and was advised to urgent­ly remove the mole as it had changed. The Melanog­ra­ph­er was fan­tas­tic – she rang me out­side of busi­ness hours and said that she thought I should get it done straight away.”

Wendy’s GP removed the mole in a 10-minute pro­ce­dure using a local anaes­thet­ic. A week lat­er, when she returned to have her stitch­es removed, the news wasn’t good. ​“My GP said, ​“I have results and the diag­no­sis is pos­i­tive melanoma….” He then went on to describe what would hap­pen next, but I nev­er heard him — I went blank, bare­ly digest­ing the news. My GP wrote a detailed email out­lin­ing every­thing so I could read every­thing lat­er with my hus­band, which helped a lot.”

The scar from Wendy’s first wide local inci­sion surgery, which unfor­tu­nate­ly, didn’t remove...
The scar from Wendy’s first wide local inci­sion surgery, which unfor­tu­nate­ly, didn’t remove all of the melanoma.

One surgery after anoth­er
Wendy was referred to a melanoma spe­cial­ist team at the hos­pi­tal and booked in for a wide local inci­sion surgery. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, fol­low­ing the wider inci­sion, the biop­sy showed more melanoma and she was urgent­ly booked in for a sec­ond, even wider inci­sion with the spe­cial­ist team. ​“It felt like it was all hap­pen­ing fast, with a blur of appoint­ments and surg­eries,” she says.

“Fol­low­ing my surg­eries, I received the all-clear for my back and I booked into a Der­ma­tol­o­gist for reg­u­lar check-ups. Dur­ing one of these, I was rec­om­mend­ed to remove a mole on my low­er leg. Once removed, the biop­sy showed anoth­er melanoma and I was urgent­ly booked in for a wider inci­sion and I have been booked in for lymph node scintig­ra­phy mapping.”

“I’ve had 9 pro­ce­dures now includ­ing fur­ther moles removed which I’m wait­ing to hear back about,” explains Wendy. ​“Each time I meet with my Melanoma team I learn a bit more and we dis­cuss a range of things, like Bres­low thick­ness, stag­ing, mar­gins, surg­eries, scans, fol­low-up plan­ning, sen­tinel node biop­sy, scans, radi­a­tion treat­ments and five-year sur­vival rates.”

Hav­ing a ​‘map’ of your moles makes a dif­fer­ence
One of the things Wendy real­ly appre­ci­at­ed was hav­ing a pho­to­graph­ic record of her skin to refer to (stan­dard with every Full Body MoleMap and MoleMap Skin Check+). ​“All of my spe­cial­ists have used it to com­pare whether my moles have changed,” she says. Some peo­ple think a Full Body MoleMap is cost­ly, but every sin­gle spe­cial­ist has said that hav­ing that point of ref­er­ence is invalu­able – you can’t put a price on that.”

A pos­i­tive out­look
My melanoma team is fair­ly pos­i­tive that we have found this ear­ly,” says Wendy. ​“They believe the best plan is to remove the melanomas alto­geth­er and then I will be reg­u­lar­ly mon­i­tored going for­ward. There is a risk of the melanoma return­ing or appear­ing else­where. Things have changed in my life and we are adjust­ing, and we will move for­ward once we know what the plan is.”

“I encour­age every­one to self-check your skin and your family’s and friends’ skin too, and if any­thing looks dif­fer­ent or you are unsure, then please get it checked,” Wendy stress­es. ​“Go see your GP, have a MoleMap or see a skin spe­cial­ist. It doesn’t take long at all. One of the things that my team say all the time is ​“if we get this ear­ly, there are pos­i­tive results with pos­i­tive outcomes.”

“This is just a part of my sto­ry, an ongo­ing sto­ry with more chap­ters to add,” she says. ​“I know I’ll be okay, my wound will heal and my scar will fade, but I will be for­ev­er check­ing my skin and I hope you do too! Fin­gers crossed always … be good to your­selves and take care out there.”

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