A young Scottish mum who used sunbeds for pre-holiday tanning has spoken out about her skin cancer diagnosis.
Nicola Rudge, 34, was this year told she had melanoma – the same condition behind her mother’s death – and is now warning others about the dangers of the machines.
Now a new mum to seven-month-old Finlay – and still waiting for an all clear after having growths removed – she told followers on social media about using sunbeds at least five or six times before jetting off on holiday.
Nicola, whose dad also died from cancer, says she tended to go on two or three holidays a year before coronavirus, and regularly went for 60-minute tanning packages to get a base tan before her trips.
The pharmacist, from Port Glasgow, Inverclyde, said she wanted to be tanned to feel more confident in beach wear.
But last Christmas she discovered a dark raised freckle on her right thigh that appeared to have a ‘tail’ and – mindful of her family history – went to the GP in early February.
Her mum Elizabeth died 11 years ago aged 53 from a brain tumour but that was a secondary cancer caused by melanoma.
Skin specialists removed Nicola’s mole in hospital on February 24 and biopsy results three weeks later confirmed it was cancerous and that she had stage 1B melanoma.
She also underwent a second surgery at Glasgow Royal Infirmary on April 22, where she had a further excision around the original mole, a lymph node biopsy and another freckle on her arm removed as a precaution.
Nicola, who is also an aesthetic clinic owner, is now waiting for the results.
She took to Facebook to encourage others to try to avoid a diagnosis like hers and raise awareness about the problem.
It read: ‘If only I could have a really stern word with my twenty-something self! Aileen and my dad would gently remind me of my family history but as always I never did listen.’
Nicola, who started going on sunbeds in her early 20s, continued: ‘My wounds were checked last week and are all looking fine, and get my results back in two weeks’ time. The hope is that everything comes back all-clear.
‘Getting it done was a no-brainer, especially because of Finlay. I want to know, I want to secure his future and I want to see him grow up.’
But, despite her optimism, she recalls the moment she realised she had cancer, explaining: ‘My heart sank when I got a phone call three weeks later asking me to go in… I just knew.
‘At that point I just thought, “let’s think the worst here”.
‘When she told me it was stage 1B melanoma obviously I was gutted but I remember thinking “this isn’t the end of the world”, I was trying to stay as positive as I could.’
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Admitting that she did not always wear sun cream, particularly if she was hungover on a girls’ holiday, she said:
‘It all comes down to percentages, the lucky 90% whose lymph nodes are clear or the unlucky 10 my surgeon called it. I try to be optimistic but I also need to be realistic too.
‘Melanoma is dangerous, it’s scary and it’s real. It can affect any age, any gender at any time. It doesn’t discriminate.
Nicola said she was sharing her experience so no-one else has to go through what she has and that more than one friend has got in touch to say they are now getting moles checked out.
‘It’s so dangerous, I wish I could turn back time but I can’t’, she said.
‘I just want to make people aware that it’s dangerous and it can happen to anybody.’
A British Skin Foundation spokesman added: ‘77% of dermatologists agreed that sunbeds should be banned in the UK in 2019.
‘We know there is no such thing as a safe tan from UV rays, therefore, the British Skin Foundation, in line with other health organisations does not recommend sunbed use.’
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