Sophie Hughes has endured the ongoing struggle of seeing so many of her loved ones go through cancer diagnoses. After losing her mother to breast cancer, her younger brother to pancreatic cancer, seeing her husband diagnosed with prostate cancer, and then the discovery of a melanoma on her son’s scalp, Sophie Hughes understands more than most just how it feels to have life turned upside down.
I remember when my brother was diagnosed, and told he had six months to live. He turned to me, completely bald, and looked me in the eyes.
“Sophie, I’m so lucky,” he said.
He went on to say that by knowing he was going to die, he was more determined to make the most of the time he had. He would tick off all of the things he had always wanted to do. Most of us don’t have the privilege of knowing when our time is up.
That conversation has stayed with me. I might be sitting at home feeling down, and his words will encourage me to pick up the phone.
Humans are funny creatures, in that we get so used to everything going right and we start to take things for granted. Sometimes, it’s only after a diagnosis or a change of lifestyle that we see the bigger picture, and appreciate the life we’ve been given.
I’ve seen the change in those around me, but also within myself.
Spreading awareness about melanoma is now a big part of my life. Just the other week I helped to encourage 150 people to get a skin test after taking part in an awareness event.
As well as protecting our skin outdoors with clothing, sunscreen, a hat, shade and sunglasses, it’s also so important to regularly examine your skin for any new spots or changes in colour, size or shape.
While in general we’re seeing a positive shift in younger generations being more and more SunSmart, there’s still a lack of understanding about melanoma and skin cancer. Whether it’s a 16-year-old girl that I start a conversation with, or my hairdresser, or a tradie I start chatting to on the street, I often get met with a blank stare when I mention the word ‘melanoma’.
Skin cancer is one form of cancer that we can actively do something to prevent and catch early—but without the education, so many people could be missing this chance.
And it’s scary because before Sam got it, I couldn’t say that I knew a whole lot about what to look out for. It shouldn’t take the diagnosis of someone close to you to spark an interest in and passion about health and cancer prevention.
Cancer Council SA Ambassador