Health and happiness
My little girl squirmed like an slippery eel as I slathered her in sun cream on the beach. ‘Quick Mum,’ Martina, five, panicked – as if the sea was going anywhere.
‘Don’t do my face,’ she winced. No chance. She had fair skin like her dad Gaetano, 33, and the sun in Italy, on our two-week break in August, 2013, was fierce.
As she raced off to the waves, I reclined back on the lounger with her sister Alessia, 18 months.
My tootsies wriggled in the sand. I’d had them freshly pedicured and the nails painted pink before going away – got to look good for the holidays!
They were never my greatest asset – my big toe always seemed to have a fungal infection. But it was nothing a bit of TLC down the salon couldn’t fix!
That was, until March 2015 when, stepping out of the shower, I noticed a mole on my toe.
The GP gave me a cream, thinking it was another fungal infection.
But it grew bigger, pushing up against the bottom of my toenail, so I had it frozen off at the doctor’s. But it was back again within a month.
‘Ugh, Mum!’ Martina said when she caught sight of it.
‘You need to see someone about that,’ Gaetano urged.
‘I have!’ I sighed. By now, I wasn’t sleeping properly from the pain and walking was becoming a struggle.
Desperate, in March 2017,
I went to A&E with my mum, Helena, 62. It was a warm day, but I could only squeeze my aching trotter into an Ugg boot.
By the time a third doctor inspected my toe, I had a question. ‘Is it cancer?’ I asked.
‘We need to do a biopsy,’ the doctor replied and I was referred to an orthopaedic specialist at Stanmore Hospital in London.
‘We are going to be very honest – we have to cut the toe off,’ the surgeon explained as I was being prepped for the biopsy.
‘Do what you need to,’ I replied. I’d had enough of the pain!
After the one-hour op, I hobbled home on crutches.
When the bandages came off, there was a big space between my big toe and the rest.
Mum sat with me at the followup appointment, while Gaetano and the girls waited in the car.
‘Are you tired? Have you been eating OK?’ the doctor quizzed. ‘I’m fine!’ I gasped.
‘I’m afraid I have very bad news,’ he continued.
‘The biopsy showed us you have a stage two malignant melanoma.’
I burst into tears. ‘Because you have had this for a long time, it may have spread,’ he said. Apparently it could have reached my lymph nodes or, worse, my brain!
It was a melanoma caused by exposure to the sun.
‘Have you ever put sun cream on your toes?’ the doctor asked. ‘Never,’ I admitted.
I gulped, thinking of all those holidays. My family are from Italy and we’re always going back there, sunbathing by the pool and on the beach.
I’d always been so careful with the girls, and myself – it just never occurred to me to do my feet.
In the car, I stammered to Gaetano, not wanting to frighten the girls, ‘We’ll talk about it back home.’
At the Royal Marsden – a specialist cancer hospital in London – surgeons removed a bit more of my toe.
And after lots of scans and tests, they confirmed it hadn’t spread, yet.
I didn’t need chemo or radiotherapy, but now, I have full-body scans every three months, just to make sure.
We’ve just come back from Italy again. I may be missing a toe but, with flip-flops on, I wore my scar with pride, having my feet pedicured as normal.
I’m not daft though.
I bathe them in sun cream every hour or so, and behind my ears now too – another area vulnerable to cancer apparently.
The kids get it as well – however much they protest!
My foot was never my best asset It just never occurred to me to do my feet