I grew up a fair-skinned child in Melbourne and spent much of my childhood summers in the sun, so I have a lot of spots.
My wife Jenny had been keen for me to get a skin check but I always thought I was too young. In 2000, when I was 34, a family friend had a spot removed by the Skin Health Institute and that was enough for Jenny – she booked me into the Skin Health Institute. I did not know much about skin cancer, or the Skin Health Institute – I had heard of melanoma but didn’t realise there were different sorts of skin cancer.
On the day of my appointment, I assumed I was just going in for a skin check. I was assessed by both a dermatology registrar and then Professor Robin Marks. It was only years later that I realised how senior Professor Marks was in his field. I had a couple of spots of interest to him, so he told me that we’d get them biopsied. I was surprised to find out they could do the biopsies immediately. I came home that day with some stitches on my abdomen and some on my lower back where the spots had been removed.
A week later I was called back in to the Skin Health Institute for my results. I had a feeling that being called back in was not going to be great news. I was called into a room with Professor Marks, who told me that the biopsy had come back and it was a melanoma. It had been completely excised, but needed to be re-excised to achieve a ‘safe’ margin.
Over the next few years I received further checks, to ensure that the melanoma hadn’t spread. I was very pleased to be regularly seen by more than one set of eyes each time I came in. The Skin Health Institute, being a teaching facility, has meant that I’m seen by both a registrar and a consultant. All the registrars were interested in my story, always tried to offer techniques to improve self-diagnosis and also how to look after my skin. The consultants were always there to oversee and confirm and gave consistency across visits.
Since 2001 I have multiple biopsies, several in-situ melanoma removed and a basal cell carcinoma (BCC) removed. All of this has been done onsite at the Skin Health Institute, which has been fantastic – sort of a one stop shop for my skin.
The skill of the work performed at the Skin Health Institute amazes me. I still have no idea how the registrars and dermatologists are able to differentiate my good spots from bad spots because I have so many – this is often remarked upon by people who look at spots all day! The skill of the plastic surgeons also astounds me. I had a spot removed from just under my eye and I cannot even see the scar – it is amazing.
I feel that the Skin Health Institute provides me with the best care that I can get because everything is done in-house. The nurses, registrars, dermatologists and plastic surgeons all work as a team, so you are not repeating your story each time; they know who you are beforehand.
Over the years I realised how lucky I had been. If Professor Marks hadn’t picked up the melanoma and acted so quickly, my outcome would have been much graver. Quite literally, the Skin Health Institute saved my life.