Mum: Be safe in the sun

Karen Thomas wants to spread the message about sun safety after she had melanoma which was caught early. She is pictured with Zyien Thomas.
Karen Thomas wants to spread the message about sun safety after she had melanoma which was caught early. She is pictured with Zyien Thomas.
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WITH the sun starting to make more frequent appearances, the Fylde coast’s beaches and seafronts will soon become littered with people sunbathing and trying to catch some rays.

But getting “a bit of colour” could come at a very high price.

And Fleetwood mum-of-three Karen Thomas is on a mission to get the sun safety message across.

Although she had never really sunbathed, she was stunned to be diagnosed with a cancerous ulcer on her face and mole on her foot in August last year.

She was shocked as she had always tried to stay safe in the sun, and the news was particularly upsetting as she had just become a mum again, after 10 years of trying and three miscarriages.

The 41-year-old said: “I have eczema, but not normally on my face. When I got this thing that looked like a spot, but wouldn’t heal, I thought it was something to do with that, and I went to my GP last May, thinking I could maybe get some cream or something.

“I hadn’t thought for a moment it could be anything serious – even when the GP said he would refer me to a dermatologist.

“I went to see the dermatologist and had noticed I also had a big mole on my toe, so I asked him to check that out too.

“My appointment came through in August last year, and the dermatologist was very nice, but quite blunt, and told me I had skin cancer on my face.

“He said it would need to be cut out, but, because it was on my face, I would need to see a plastic surgeon, who would also look at my toe.”

According to Macmillan Cancer Support, over the last 30 years, the rate of malignant melanomas in Britain has risen faster than any of the top 10 cancers in males and females. In the North West, in 2008 – the latest year for which figures are available – there were 1,248 new cases of malignant melanoma.

After being treated as an urgent case, Karen had her operations and skin grafts.

“The surgery was the most horrendous thing, as I was awake and having a surgeon cutting into your face while awake was not pleasant.

“My toe looked like it had a shark bite, and they had to leave it as an open wound, but it finally healed. But they did a great job and told me they had got it all. I feel so lucky they caught it early.

“And the Macmillan chat room was great and a real source of support to me.

“I now have to have checks and be careful in the future. I am fair-skinned so have always been very wary of getting sunburnt.

“I don’t sunbathe and never wear sandals. The only time I could think of getting sunburnt was once when I was little.

“I always use suncream and stay out of the midday sun as far as possible. I must have caught the sun just walking out and about, so it shows you how careful you need to be.

“I always make sure my three boys and husband use suncream, but after my experience, the boys have really got the message about sun safety.

“It makes me cringe when I see people sunbathing and they are bright red, especially babies and children.

“To do it to yourself is one thing, but babies and children don’t have a choice.

“I just hope my story helps get the sun safety message across and the message is: if you find anything, get it checked.

“If I can encourage even just one person to use suntan cream, then I’ll be happy.”