What losing my brother to skin cancer taught me

Raelene’s skin cancer story

Raelene Buchan, an  operations manager from Brisbane, was in her late 20s when she had her first Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) removed.  

“When I was young people thought it was healthy to sit in the sun. We’ve obviously all had a mindset change since then,” she says. 

Raelene Buchan standing on a beach, holding hands with a young child. They're both wearing sun-protective clothing.

This brush with skin cancer prompted her older brother Jimmy to consult a doctor about a lump he noticed on his back- which turned out to be a melanoma. The tumor was removed but, two years later, the malignant melanoma had reached Jimmy’s brain. At just 43 years old, Jimmy sadly passed away. 

“He had tanned skin and Aussie blonde hair – I have red hair and fair skin. I always thought I would be the one to get skin cancer,” she says. 

Raelene has since had two melanomas removed and continues to get regular skin checks, knowing first-hand how critical early detection is. 

She is a passionate advocate for sun safety and leading by example, now passing on Jimmy’s legacy to her 8-year-old daughter Sadie, by encouraging her to use all five forms of sun protection – Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek and Slide wherever they go.  

Raelene often takes to social media to show her friends how easy it is to don stylish protective clothing and seek shade when the UV is 3 or above.  

“We need to reframe the way we think about tanning and sun protection. I hate seeing people lying out in the sun on the beach, burning alive,” she says. “We are so quick to neglect the skin, even though it’s our largest organ.” 

Raelene’s takeaway message: “Please get to know your skin and see a doctor if you notice any changes. Being embarrassed is nothing compared to the pain you can go through. And most importantly, use sun protection! If you don’t want to do it for yourself, do it for someone else - the people that love you.”