With olive skin which never burned in the sun, Katy Frankish never imagined she would be susceptible to skin cancer.
The mum-of-two tells AASMA DAY her story and why she is warning people to be sensible in the sun and avoid sun beds.
When the slightest ray of sun started blazing, Katy Frankish used to feel herself filling with excitement at the prospect of sunbathing.
The self confessed sun worshipper says she loved soaking up the sun whenever possible – both in the UK and abroad.
Katy, 35, who lives in Wheelton, near Chorley with husband Mick and their two children Izzy, nine and Matty, seven, explains: “I always loved sunbathing, mainly in foreign countries.
“When I was 20, I went backpacking around the Greek Islands and saw plenty of sun there and as I student, I went to Ecuador.
The cancer had been caught early enough so it hadn’t spread and I didn’t need any further treatment.
“I do like my holidays and I went to Portugal a lot and sunbathed there.
“However, I always used suntan lotion and I have olive skin which never burned.
“I always thought it was only people with pale skin who burnt easily who were susceptible to skin cancer.”
Katy suspects her use of sunbeds in earlier years led her to develop skin cancer.
She says: “When I was a teenager, I used to go on a sunbed to improve my complexion and get rid of spots.
“However, when I was in my early 20s, I would go on sunbeds for three days in a row before a night out.
“I think by this point, the sunbeds were a lot more powerful and intense than the ones I used as a teenager.
“You went on them for a shorter time, but they felt more intense and when I came off them, I would be red in the face.
“Looking back, I realise whenever I went on holiday, I would start off using factor 30 suncream and then come down to about factor 15.
“But on a sunbed, you are not using any protection.”
When Katy became pregnant with Izzy, she knew she wasn’t allowed to go on sunbeds so stopped. After having her children, she decided if sunbeds weren’t safe in pregnancy, they weren’t really safe at all and she has not used them for 10 years.
A few years ago she noticed a tiny mole on her left leg. Katy remembers: “It seemed like this mole just appeared on my leg as I hadn’t noticed it before.
“It was tiny, but really dark and it grew really quickly over a period of months.
“I showed it to a friend who was a nurse when we went swimming together and she urged me to get it checked out.
“I went to the doctors about something else and while I was there, I showed them the mole and asked what they thought it was.
“However, I was told it was nothing and not to worry about it! About six weeks later, I was back at the doctor for something else again and this time it was a different doctor.
“I told him I had already mentioned the mole to the other doctor but that I thought it was growing.
“This doctor told me that it could be nothing, but just in case, he was going to refer me to hospital.
“I went to see a specialist at Euxton Hall Hospital and he told me that there was a 90 per cent chance the mole was nothing and a 10 per cent chance it was something.
“He told me it was up to me whether I wanted it removed. I wasn’t bothered about a scar and I thought that even if there was a slight chance of it being something serious, I wanted it out.”
Katy had the mole removed under local anaesthetic and went back two weeks later for the results.
She went to the appointment on her own as she wasn’t really expecting to hear anything sinister.
However, to her horror, she was told it was malignant melanoma, one of the worst types of skin cancer.
Katy says: “It was a shock, but luckily, because it had been caught so early, I was told the cancer was Stage 1 B.
“All I had to have done was have the mole removed and then have a second procedure to remove a bigger area.
“The cancer had been caught early enough so it hadn’t spread and I didn’t need any further treatment.
“I have been having regular check-ups - initially every three months and now every six months.
“I have been incredibly lucky and my advice to anyone who develops an unusual mole is ‘don’t delay, get to the doctor’. It could be the difference between life and death.
“It has made a huge impact on my life. When I go on holiday now, I can’t go in the sun at all. On summer holidays, I have to wear factor 50 UV swimwear covering me from my ankles to my neck.
“However, if I had been sensible in the first place, I would still be able to enjoy the sun instead of now having to hide from it.
“I wear factor 50 suncream and have to keep covered with a hat.
“It has totally changed the way I holiday. Whereas before, I was constantly sitting in the sun, I now sit in the shade. We went to Mauritius in the summer and that was a challenge.
“I feel strongly against sunbeds, as I am convinced they played a big part in what happened to me. There is no reason to use them when you can have a spray tan instead.
“I always interrogate friends now about what factor sun cream they are using.
“But despite everything, I know how lucky I am as by catching it early, I didn’t have to have anything major.”