Hat cam­paign spreads word about dan­gers of melanoma

Warragul & Drouin Gazette - - NEWS -

It was only weeks af­ter she had found a lump in her breast and the fam­ily was in shock.

Lau­rel, 61, had a melanoma re­moved from her face in 2005. She had no fol­low-up treat­ment and tests showed she was clear of any other can­cer cells.

Blood tests and checks every six months showed noth­ing un­til Lau­rel dis­cov­ered a small lump in her breast just be­fore Christ­mas 2010.

Feel­ing well and con­fi­dent it would be noth­ing, she con­tin­ued work­ing over the busy Christ­mas and new year pe­riod.

Lau­rel was to­tally un­aware of what was grow­ing in her body.

This month, the Melanoma In­sti­tute Aus­tralia has launched a na­tional cam­paign to in­crease aware­ness of melanoma whilst rais­ing vi­tal funds for melanoma re­search.

The cam­paign calls on all Aus­tralians to “Leave your hat on” to raise

pub­lic aware­ness about melanoma – the most fa­tal form of skin can­cer and the most com­mon can­cer in 15 to 39 year-old Aus­tralians.

MIA statis­tics show one Aus­tralian dies every five hours from melanoma. This year more than 1800 Aus­tralians are ex­pected to die from melanoma.

Lau­rel Peter­son was one of those statis­tics. And Leanne knows the im­por­tance of cam­paigns that raise aware­ness about melanoma.

More than five years af­ter hav­ing “a mark” on her face re­moved, Lau­rel found a lump in her breast. The melanoma can­cer had re­turned.

“Within a week she was rid­dled with it. By the time she went to Pe­ter MacCal­lum weeks later, it was in her brain, lungs, liver, bowel, ev­ery­where.

“They put her on steroids in­stantly to try and stop its growth.

“We’re sorry…that’s all they could say. We could see it on the scans, it was just a mass on her brain,” Leanne said.

Lau­rel had grown up in War­ragul and lived all her life in the town.

She was well known in the com­mu­nity and peo­ple saw her out walk­ing most days. Within three months she was gone, which Leanne said was a huge shock for every­one.

By the age of 36, Lau­rel had lost both par­ents and later, her son died when he was 20.

Leanne said her mum was tough, and while she was tough and brave un­til the end, she couldn’t beat it.

“We know how bad melanoma can­cer can be. It was ag­gres­sive and mov­ing so fast,” he said.

Leanne and her sis­ter Ta­nia now have an­nual skin checks and be­cause of their ge­net­ics, keep a close eye on any sus­pi­cious marks.

They also are great sup­port­ers of any aware­ness cam­paigns that pro­vide peo­ple with a greater un­der­stand­ing of melanoma.

Af­ter their mum died, Leanne and Ta­nia marched for melanoma, rais­ing thou­sands of dol­lars and rais­ing aware­ness through their team Lau­rel’s Moles.

Leanne says any cam­paign to make peo­ple more aware about skin can­cer is an im­por­tant one.

The MIA states in­tense in­ter­mit­tent sun ex­po­sure lead­ing to sun­burn,

par­tic­u­larly be­fore pu­berty, in­creases your risk of de­vel­op­ing melanoma later in life.

“Young Aus­tralians need to know they are at risk – and they need to know now,” said MIA chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Ca­role Re­nouf.

“We have one of the high­est rates of melanoma in the world. New treat­ments are mak­ing a dif­fer­ence but more re­search needs to be done.

“The real tragedy is that melanoma is largely preventable by liv­ing a sun-smart life. What bet­ter mes­sage for Aus­tralians than ‘Leave Your Hat On’ to help pre­vent melanoma and at the same time raise funds for re­search into ear­lier de­tec­tion and new treat­ments,” she said.

This Septem­ber, Melanoma In­sti­tute Aus­tralia is ask­ing men and women to ‘Leave Your Hat On’ – for a day, for an event, for a dare, or for the whole month – so they can help in the fight against melanoma.

Get­ting in­volved is easy. Reg­is­ter at www.leavey­ourha­ton.org to re­ceive a free in­for­ma­tion kit packed with fundrais­ing ideas and ev­ery­thing you need to get started.

Fam­ily and friends of Lau­rel Peter­son came to­gether af­ter her death to march for melanoma as Lau­rel’s Moles and raise aware­ness of melanoma can­cers (from left) Kristy, Karen and her daugh­ter Lily, Jo, Lau­rel’s daugh­ter Leanne, grand­daugh­ter Isa-bella and Lau­rel’s sis­ter Sue with Lau­rel’s grand­son

Lau­rel Peter­son died from melanoma can­cer in 2011 af­ter a short and agres­sive ill­ness.

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