Passionate marathon runner, Nakia Stevens from Dianella was preparing for an 80 kilometer ultramarathon when a small mole stopped her in her tracks.
Nakia noticed that a mole on her leg had turned black, so she immediately contacted her doctor to find out what it meant.
Here, at age 41, as a mother to a four year old, Nakia was told that she had skin cancer. The mole was a melanoma that needed to be removed quickly.
First, a biopsy was required to see how deep the melanoma was. Next, an appointment was arranged to remove the melanoma. Given the depth of the melanoma, a skin graph was also required.
Nakia says her melanoma diagnosis did not come as a complete surprise. “I have fair skin and I love the outdoors. However, I didn’t realise the extent of it and how bad melanoma can be, or how quickly it can spread”.
The melanoma needed to be removed quickly, so Nakia was unable to do the marathon she had spent so long training for.
Luckily, the melanoma was removed completely, and Nakia did not require any further treatment.
Nakia believes her awareness of the need to use sun protection has changed a lot since her skin cancer diagnosis.
“I am very aware, and I cover up all the time now”, she said.
Nakia’s advice for anyone who notices a change to a spot or mole is – “you must go and get it checked out. You do not realise that melanoma spreads very quickly and checkups are so important”.
“Melanoma is something that we can avoid where possible. Don’t think it won’t happen to you, because it can. Be aware of the UV index and cover up as much as possible. Educate yourself on melanoma and if you are someone who loves the outdoors, take photos of your body regularly and watch for any changes”, she said.
Nakia has since come up with a creative way to teach her son sun safety through a song, inspired by the well-known ‘Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes’ song.
“We would sing the song and cover your head with sunglasses, hat, and wear zinc around the nose.
Cover up your shoulders and arms and wearing a rashie while swimming. Knees – cover up the legs.
Sun block your feet and wear covered shoes. Melanoma can get in between those toes as well!”
Nakia is not alone in this story, as two in three Australians will develop skin cancer in their lifetime.
Don’t wait for a skin cancer diagnosis to change your sun safety habits.