Health and hap­pi­ness

Real People - - CONTENTS - Gabriella Fara­cino, 35, New Malden, Sur­rey

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

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