Hat campaign spreads word about dangers of melanoma
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.