I was 34 and just days away from getting married when I was diagnosed with a melanoma on my jaw line. Like every other Aussie kid growing up in Australia, I spent a lot of time outdoors, playing sport, going to the beach and swimming.
And like every other Aussie teenager I thought it was cool to have a tan, but I never really got one, just sunburnt.
Being fair-skinned, I sort of sensed that I was more susceptible to skin cancer, but never really thought it would happen to me.
In 2011, after living in London for a few years with my fiancé Liz, we flew back to Australia for our wedding.
It was one of those really exciting but rushed times in my life.
I had always been pretty vigilant about getting my skin checked regularly, but must admit while I was living overseas I’d let things slip.
Although I was flat out finalising wedding preparations and catching up with friends and family, I decided to squeeze in a dermatologist appointment, just to make sure everything was ok.
It was 10 days before my wedding and almost immediately she pointed to my jaw and said: “What’s that?”
I was surprised, I hadn’t even noticed the tiny spot, even when shaving each day. Looking back, small and hidden under my jaw line, it was probably easy to miss.
If she hadn’t noticed it, I doubt I would ever have had it checked.
My dermatologist insisted that I get a biopsy to diagnose what it was. As you can imagine, with my wedding now days away, I was reluctant because I didn’t want to stand at the altar with stitches on my face. But she was insistent.
I naively thought the biopsy would show nothing – but two days before the wedding, she rang to say it was a stage one melanoma. It was a huge reality check! If I’d put off seeing her I doubt I would have done anything until we ultimately moved back to Australia six months later – by then things could have been worse.
Liz and I sat down and talked about our options. After months of planning photographers, cake, venue and invitees, this was the last thing we expected to be dealing with at this late stage.
At first, my doctor recommended immediate surgery on the eve of the wedding to remove a larger section around where the biopsy had been taken. Fortunately, because it was early stage, the surgeon I consulted agreed to let me go ahead with the wedding and take our honeymoon before my surgery.
After a couple of wonderful weeks away, Liz and I were forced to say goodbye as I flew back to Australia for surgery and she returned to work in London. It wasn’t how we expected our married life to begin, but in the scheme of things it wasn’t a big deal.
The surgery was a success and removed any doubt that traces of the melanoma still existed. I was fortunate because we caught the melanoma in the early stages so I didn’t require further treatment like chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
Since this event, I’ve become far more conscious of the dangers of the sun. These days I make a point of telling my friends to protect themselves and keep a close eye on their skin.
Luckily, it was a happy ending. Liz and I have now been married for three years and we recently welcomed the arrival of our daughter, Evie.
I’ll definitely be making sure that, as Evie grows up, she’s is a lot more careful and conscious of skin protection than I was.