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Personal cancer story

Kimberley Brien

I was still in my teens when I was diagnosed with a malignant melanoma on my back.

Kimberley Brien

Growing up close to the beach, I was a very active child and always outside, whether it was playing sport, swimming in our pool, walking the dog, disappearing for the day down the creek or just enjoying being a kid in the fresh air.

My parents always taught us about the importance of sun safety and would apply sunscreen to all of us before we went outside. My skin is quite pale naturally, which caused my parents to be very aware of the importance of sun safety, but it was still very easy for me to get sunburnt if I didn't reapply.

When I was 14, I was at a party at my sister's house, sitting on the steps with a singlet top on when one of my sister's friends noticed a mole on the centre of my back. She said it didn't look quite right and suggested I get it checked out.

I get so annoyed when I hear of all these people going to solariums, injecting themselves with melanin and tanning for hours with no protection at all."

Kimberley Brien

My dad took me to the local GP in the next couple of weeks, who then referred me straight to a specialist at the hospital. When I went in for my appointment they told me almost straight away that it was malignant and that I would need to be operated on as soon as possible. At only age 14, it was a pretty huge shock – I never expected to be diagnosed with skin cancer, particularly when I was still so young.

My appointment was made for the following day and everything seemed to be moving so fast. I guess being so young, I didn't even realise or understand what was going on.

The operation went well. They managed to remove everything, but it left me with a huge cut on an angle right across my back. I also had lymph nodes under my arms removed as a precaution, leaving me with 10 staples under each arm, which made movement quite restrictive.

The cut took a long time to heal. I had to go back to the doctor daily to get my staples and stitches checked. Eventually I was able to have them removed.

Kimberley Brien

Then one day while walking home a friend noticed blood on the back of my shirt. When I got home I discovered that my scar had split open. I was straight back to my doctor hoping he would just tape me back up, but he told me it had split too far – I would have to go back into hospital to get ‘mattress stitches’, which go really deep into your skin.

The stitches were considered day surgery, but no amount of local anaesthetic could numb the pain I was feeling. It ended up being too much for my dad to watch – he was sweating profusely seeing the pain I was in and had to leave the room. When these stitches were eventually removed, the scar had doubled, if not tripled from its original size.

Being a young girl at the time, I was pretty devastated by the scar the skin cancer left on my back. For a long time I thought it was hideous. Looking back though, my health is more important than the appearance of my scar.

These days I embrace my scar. It tells a story and has made me who I am today.

I get so annoyed when I hear of all these people going to solariums, injecting themselves with melanin and tanning for hours with no protection at all. Eventually it will catch up with them.

To this day I love the outdoors and summer weather, I am just more cautious and cover up.

Read more stories about people's personal experiences with cancer