Mum-of-two reveals why ‘getting a little bit sunburned’ is a real problem
A mother-of-two has issued a dire warning to sun-seekers after her love for the beach left her with skin cancer.
Shelley Devine, from Queensland‘s Sunshine Coast, is fighting stage four melanoma after excessive tanning during her 20s and 30s.
The former flight attendant, now 52, was diagnosed last year and fears she will never experience the joy of becoming a grandmother.
Shelley Devine, pictured on a beach holiday in Sri Lanka in 1994, used to spend her life in the sun
Now the mum-of-two, pictured here with daughter Ruby, 22, is ‘proud to be pale’ and sun safe after being diagnosed with skin cancer
Pictured is a large melanoma her old GP dismissed as a ‘paint splatter’ months before her terminal diagnosis
She had never gone for a skin check in her younger years – and when she finally asked a doctor about a mole on her back, she was told it was a ‘harmless paint splatter’.
But the truth was terrifying.
‘The edges of the mole were uneven, the colour was uneven and it was changing in size,’ Shelley told FEMAIL.
‘It showed every sign of being melanoma and it was dismissed by my GP.
‘The problem with melanoma is the mole can appear to heal from the outside, but it really is just digging itself under your skin and entering the blood stream.’
Further tests found the disease had spread through her lungs and into her liver.
She found a new GP after the extraordinary misdiagnosis.
Her new doctor was shocked the large spot on her back – which has since been removed – was considered ‘harmless’.
Shelley says her diagnosis has changed the way she and her daughter (pictured together) treat the sun
Shelley is now doing immunotherapy – a treatment which leaves her tired but could save or extend her life
Shelley is now working hard to beat the disease while spreading awareness and encouraging Australians to be sun safe.
‘My 22-year-old daughter used to be the type to have her butt out on Instagram and would spend all day at the beach,’ she said.
‘Now her feed is full of beach umbrellas and she covers her skin,’ Shelley said.
Shelley said she now never exposes herself to the sun without 50+ cream.
‘I used to just wear sun cream on my face, mostly because I am vain, but would never put it anywhere else,’ she said.
Shelley now avoids wearing singlet tops – previously a wardrobe staple for the mum who is pictured here with her son Oliver, 24
Shelley wants people to learn from her mistakes and avoid making the deadly choice to ‘ignore their sunburned shoulders’
‘Now I wear t-shirts as a minimum, always have a hat on and put sunscreen on my whole body every time I go outside.
‘I have also gone from loving the hot weather to preferring rainy days when it is safer to go outside.’
Shelley said she was too naive about the effect of ‘getting a little bit burned’ .
‘I always thought how can it kill you, it is on your skin you get it cut off and away you go,’ she said.
Shelley said she never understood what made skin cancer deadly – she thought they could simply be cut out
What are the warning signs of melanoma?
The first five letters of the alphabet are a guide to help you recognise the warning signs of melanoma.
A is for Asymmetry. Most melanomas are asymmetrical. If you draw a line through the middle of the lesion, the two halves don’t match, so it looks different from a round to oval and symmetrical common mole.
B is for Border. Melanoma borders tend to be uneven and may have scalloped or notched edges, while common moles tend to have smoother, more even borders.
C is for Colour. Multiple colours are a warning sign. While benign moles are usually a single shade of brown, a melanoma may have different shades of brown, tan or black. As it grows, the colours red, white or blue may also appear.
D is for Diameter or Dark. While it’s ideal to detect a melanoma when it is small, it’s a warning sign if a lesion is the size of a pencil eraser (about 6 mm, or ¼ inch in diameter) or larger. Some experts say it is also important to look for any lesion, no matter what size, that is darker than others. Rare, amelanotic melanomas are colourless.
E is for Evolving. Any change in size, shape, colour or elevation of a spot on your skin, or any new symptom in it, such as bleeding, itching or crusting, may be a warning sign of melanoma.
‘I didn’t understand how fast it can spread through your blood stream to your organs.’
Shelley says she ‘feels about 80 per cent’ as a result of her life-saving immunotherapy drugs.
The first round of treatment led her to be admitted to hospital with hepatitis as it attacked her liver.
‘I have never been so sick in my life,’ she said.
The mum, pictured here during her first practical experience as a trainee nurse, says she is afraid to dream of the future
Shelley’s daughter Ruby has set up a Go Fund Me page to help her get her car back on the road.
The vehicle broke down around the time of Shelley’s diagnosis.
Shelley is sharing her story to promote the importance of sun safety and to encourage people to get their skin checked every 12 months.
‘It is your choice to lie in the sun, to get a tan but I think after seeing someone like me go through this you would be crazy not to change your ways,’ she said.