Health

Wednesday 1 October 2014

I survived skin cancer -- so I warn my friends about using sunbeds

Laura Fucci tells Lisa Jewell her courageous tale, and stresses the need for skin safety

Laura Fucci tells Lisa Jewell her courageous tale, and stresses the need for skin safety

Laura Fucci was just 17 when she decided to get the mole on her back checked out by a doctor. It was to prove the wisest and most important decision of her young life.

Sitting in the oncologist's office, Italian-born Laura was given the worst news imaginable: she had a severe form of skin cancer, and the disease was already in its third, potentially fatal stage.

The teenager sat there dumbfounded. All her other cares went out the window -- she was now in a battle to save her life ...

Laura had sought medical help because she was prone to getting moles as a result of her having a form of albinism that means she has no pigmentation in her skin and hair and is susceptible to sun damage.

"I was sent to a consultant who checked all my moles and said she didn't like the look of one on my right inner thigh," recalls Laura.

"They removed the mole and I didn't think much more of it. Then about a week later I got a call.

"When the head of the oncology unit takes time out from his busy day to call you, you know it's something serious. I didn't sleep much that night. I had a feeling it wasn't going to be good news."

The next day, Laura was given her diagnosis and, she says, she "lost it".

"I panicked because I knew the third stage meant chemotherapy and radiotherapy," she says. "I knew I could get through them, but it was the thought of losing my hair that really got to me."

Laura underwent surgery to check how far the cancer had spread.

"I was so lucky -- it was a few millimetres away from the artery. I didn't have to go through chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

"The doctors told me that if I'd left the mole, it would have reached an artery within three or four months and would have spread."

Laura, who's now 28, gets regular mole checks as she has an increased risk of developing skin cancer again. She's eager to spread the word about sun safety and is especially vocal with friends who use sunbeds.

"I tell them that it's not worth it -- I've gone through skin cancer and I wouldn't wish it on anyone," she says.

"In Ireland I don't have to wear sun cream every day, but I always have a facial moisturiser with SPF and wear sun cream in the spring and summer."

When Laura was growing up, there wasn't much awareness of albinism, and she had bad cases of sunburn.

Irish Independent

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