USING the sunbeds a couple of times a week to top up her tan didn’t seem like a big deal to Nickie Murtagh.
In her twenties the mum would go on for around eight to 12 minutes a session and would never exceed the recommended usage – so didn’t think much of it.
Nickie, now 36, says she would actively avoid using sun protection on her face as she didn’t want to ‘stop herself catching a tan’.
But years of sun damage and sunbed use took its toll on Nickie, who lives in London, after she noticed a dry patch on her scalp which eventually turned into a lump where she parts her hair.
Nikki went to the doctors to get it checked out and at first she was told it was nothing to worry about.
While on holiday in Tenerife, Nickie’s condition got much worse and she said she started to get melasma on her face, which looks like brown or grey patches.
She said her tan was patchy and that her ‘skin just didn't’ feel right’.
After returning from her holiday, Nickie returned to the doctors, where she said she was told once more than everything was fine.
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But the lump on her head was making her self-conscious, so she decided to go back to the doctors because she wanted it removed whether it was cancer or not.
Nickie said: "The doctors told me it was a cosmetic procedure and I would have to pay for it. I got really upset and eventually, they sent a referral to the dermatologist.
"After an appointment with the dermatologist, they told me they thought it was cancer straight away and biopsied me there and then.
"While waiting for the results, my family stayed so positive and reassured me it was going to be fine and although the dermatologist thought it was cancer, I still wasn't really expecting it.
"Seven weeks later I received the results and I was told it was skin cancer – basal cell carcinoma.
"When I heard the C word I instantly felt like my world was ending and I was going to die. I worried about my kids and my family.
"It was terrifying.
"I was offered radiotherapy or surgery. I chose surgery because it was less invasive and avoids the side effects that come with radiotherapy.
"I just wanted it to be gone.”
I am so much more cautious in the sun now and I avoid sunbeds at all costs
Nickie had surgery to remove the cancer and a skin graft from her thigh which was successful.
Nickie was given the all-clear and says that the skin graft was the worst part of her experience as her thigh would not stop bleeding.
After having the staples removed from the area that the lump was removed from, she says that it was so gruesome and shocking.
Nickie added: "It was awful. It looked like I had been shot in the head.
"And I was terrified to wash my hair and make it worse.
"My hair hasn't and won't grow back in that area because the skin is from my thigh.
What is basal cell carcinoma
Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is a non-melanoma skin cancer which usually develops in the outermost layer of the skin, known as the epidermis.
It accounts for 75 per cent of all skin cancers.
BCC is also known as rodent ulcer and it usually appears as a small, pink or white lump with a waxy appearance.
In some cases it can look like a scaly, red patch on the skin and there can be a brown pigment within the patch.
Typically the lump gets bigger over time and can bleed, get crusty or transform into a painless ulcer.
The tumour can usually be found on the skin exposed to the sun, such as the face, shoulders, hands, ears, upper chest and back.
"And I have also lost all feeling in it.”
While Nickie can’t see the lump very well because it’s on the top of her head, she said it makes her feel self-conscious as people sometimes stare, or kids point it out.
She added: "I try to use it to teach them a lesson to wear hats and sun cream.
"I also don't like to wear shorts because people can see the scar on my leg from the skin graft.
"I am so much more cautious in the sun now and I avoid sunbeds at all costs.
"I am much more educated about sun damage and sun protection. I always wear a hat and I have SPF on every single day of the year.
"The sun doesn't have to be hot to cause damage."
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