Skin can­cer has wo­ken me up to sun dan­ger

It’s been a glo­ri­ous week – but for US singer Jen­nifer Paige, the sun is no fun. The 43-year-old mum is still reel­ing from be­ing di­ag­nosed with po­ten­tially lethal melanoma

Irish Sunday Mirror - - YOUR HEALTH - ROZ LEWIS

I have al­ways had lots of freck­les and moles and in 2011 I no­ticed a freckle on my right cheek that seemed to be get­ting big­ger.

I went to a der­ma­tol­o­gist to see if they could re­move it. At the time, no one men­tioned it might be skin can­cer so I had treatment to lighten it. But over time it came back – and I guess that was a bad sign.

I went back to have it checked out. I wasn’t pre­pared at all for the re­sult – I had skin can­cer. It was a mas­sive shock.

And it wasn’t just skin can­cer, but melanoma, which is po­ten­tially a re­ally deadly dis­ease that can spread to other parts of the body. It sent my world into a tail­spin.

The doc­tors re­moved a huge chunk of skin on my cheek, which left a wound so I had to wear a plas­ter on it as it healed.

But when they checked the sur­round­ing area af­ter the op­er­a­tion, there were still skin can­cer cells there, so I had to have more surgery to cut out even more skin.

It was a re­ally scary, tough time. And be­cause the can­cer was on my face, I couldn’t switch off from it. I was also self-con­scious about the scar.

I was work­ing as a mu­si­cian and start­ing to put to­gether a Christ­mas al­bum but this can­cer just stopped ev­ery­thing in its tracks. I couldn’t be pho­tographed and my health sud­denly had to take pri­or­ity over my mu­sic.

As a child, grow­ing up in the hot, Deep South of the US, I was pretty much like ev­ery other child – play­ing out­doors. Back then in the 70s, there wasn’t a lot of aware­ness of how the sun could dam­age skin. I can’t re­mem­ber my mum say­ing I should wear sun­screen when the weather was hot.

As a teenager, I used to lie out by the pool once in a while and I moved to sunny Cal­i­for­nia when I was 19. A year later, I went on a va­ca­tion to Hawaii, where I fell asleep in the sun one day and got one of those hor­ri­ble blis­ter­ing sun­burns. I felt re­ally un­well and it took 10 days for my skin to heal prop­erly.

Maybe it was that sun dam­age all those years ago that caused the melanoma to de­velop. I have very fair skin and have al­ways burned eas­ily. I also dis­cov­ered, some time af­ter my skin can­cer di­ag­no­sis, that a dis­tant rel­a­tive has had skin can­cer – it does run in fam­i­lies too.

That first year of treatment was very hard. Ev­ery three months I had to be thor­oughly checked and other ar­eas of skin that the doc­tors wanted to check out were re­moved too. I started

putting frank­in­cense on my scar to help it heal, which did help. But it took sev­eral months be­fore my face was fully healed and ev­ery­thing calmed down.

It was only in 2012 that I be­gan to feel like my life was get­ting back on track. My three-month check-ups even­tu­ally be­came ev­ery six months. I am now fas­tid­i­ous about ap­ply­ing sun­block and stay­ing out of the sun when­ever I can.

In 2014, be­com­ing a mum for the first time strength­ened my re­solve to be even more healthy and aware of my body. Nashville has very hot, sunny sum­mers so I make sure my daugh­ter has sun­screen on all the time.

It isn’t very ob­vi­ous but I can see the scar on my face, which is across my right cheek­bone.

I use a sun­block ev­ery day and al­ways put a mois­turiser with SPF on my face. I’ve now reached the can­cer all-clear af­ter the five-year mark. One thing I can­not un­der­stand is how any­one can still use a sunbed. Skin can­cer is so dan­ger­ous – no one should be in­creas­ing their risk of de­vel­op­ing it.

Jen­nifer is per­form­ing at the Walled Gar­den fes­ti­val, Brightling Park, East Sus­sex, July 14-16, walledgar­den­mu­

COVER STAR Jen­nifer Paige

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