Patient Stories

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.
MoleMap Team
December 22, 2021
3 minutes

“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.”

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Wendy’s jour­ney

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 all of the melanoma
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.”

larg­er scar from Wendy’s sec­ond wide local inci­sion surgery
An even larg­er scar from Wendy’s sec­ond wide local inci­sion surgery. Since then, she has had oth­er moles removed too – 9 pro­ce­dures in total.

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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 Mole Check 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.”

6 help­ful tips if you have a melanoma diag­no­sis

6 things Wendy learned that might be help­ful for any­one else going through a melanoma diagnosis:

  1. All news is good news and there is help if you get it ear­ly. Be brave and keep going!
  2. Take some­one with you to lis­ten in appoint­ments and ask questions.
  3. Don’t con­sult Dr Google! If you do, ask your med­ical team for real­i­ty. Ask lots of questions!
  4. It is okay to feel over­whelmed. Try writ­ing a diary of events — it helped me to ​‘not think’ about it as I had it writ­ten down.
  5. Talk to your sup­port peeps, it helped me heaps!
  6. Be grate­ful for the lit­tle things.

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 try not to dwell on it too much but some­times I found myself tear­ful or blank, but then I am back on track again. I was told this is nor­mal and it’s all part of get­ting your head around it all. The mil­lion thoughts that pop in and out of your head can be over­whelm­ing and the best thing I found was to talk to some­one and share those thoughts.”

“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, visit skin cancer clinics like MoleMap to consult a skin specialist.t. 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.”

“I’m so very lucky to have great peo­ple sup­port­ing me 100%: they lis­ten, they hug, they laugh, they cry, they under­stand and they are there all the time! And I mean all the time, these peo­ple are awe­some, and I am thank­ful to each and every one!“

“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.” ♥

Thank you so much Wendy for shar­ing your sto­ry. And a reminder to any­one who has a mole or spot that is new, chang­ing or sim­ply looks ​‘weird’, don’t chance it — get it skin check or mole check by experts as soon as pos­si­ble. It may turn out to be noth­ing to wor­ry about … or you may have caught it in the nick of time.

MoleMap Team

At MoleMap we check, detect and treat skin cancer. Find out how you can protect your skin at your nearest MoleMap skin cancer clinic.

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