Real stories: How skin cancer checks save lives

Despite most skin cancers being curable if detected and treated early, every five hours an Australian still dies from melanoma. After being prompted by loved ones to get skin checks, acting in a timely manner saved the lives of the real patients who share their skin cancer survival stories below.  

Every week that passes matters. Don’t delay in getting peace of mind.



Chris Hills

Chris Hills is an Aussie dad who is lucky to be alive. He was diagnosed with stage II melanoma after going for a skin cancer check with what he thought was an irritated rash he had picked up while gardening.

“I was watching the cricket with a friend when he noticed an irritation on my arm and recommended I get it checked out,” Chris said. “I didn’t think it was going to be anything. But it was melanoma. I had a one-year-old at the time; it was a total shock.

“While I was having the melanoma removed, the surgeon said, 'You’re a lucky man. If you left this six months you may not be here today.' My first thoughts were not about me, but everyone else. I couldn’t think of a life for my kids without me being here.

“I didn’t think I needed to have a skin check, and now, from my perspective, it’s a matter of life and death.”



Olivia Jackson

Two weeks before her 21st  birthday, Olivia Jackson was diagnosed with stage IV melanoma. She had been sun-safe all her life, with no personal or family history of skin cancer, and this was her first skin check.

“Mum booked me in for a skin check,” said Olivia. “But I wasn’t concerned. Skin cancer doesn’t run in my family.  

“Then the doctor told me there was a worrisome mole. It was only 3mm, so I never saw it on my back. He said if I waited four months or so, it would be a completely different story right now. It would be someone else sharing my story. I was very shocked. It’s not something you expect. It’s the last thing on your mind.”

Olivia thinks most people are indifferent about their skin cancer risk, and she now advocates for everyone to get regular skin checks.

“My friends said this wasn’t something they thought about in their everyday life. But I just encourage people to take 30 minutes out of their day to get a skin check because you’re putting time back into your future.” 



Tahyla Newton

A chance recommendation from her friend saved Tahyla Newton's life. Then aged 19, Tahyla was on holiday when her friend noticed a strange mole on her foot and suggested it might be skin cancer. Tahyla thought it was nothing to worry about, but her friend booked her an appointment to see a doctor. 

"I was on my way to my first ever day at uni and I got a call,” Tahyla said, “and they told me to bring a support person to my appointment later in the day. It was melanoma.”

Now 20, Tahyla has survived not one but three melanomas. 

"It's scary to think what might have happened if I didn't get them checked. I would have missed my uni graduation and my career as a nurse. I would have missed out on growing up." 

Before her diagnosis, Tahyla hadn't thought much about skin cancer. Her mother had had a melanoma, but Tahyla didn't know there could be a family risk of the disease. She now has a skin check every three months. 

"Skin cancer is this big and scary thing, but when you're undergoing regular skin checks, it can never grow to become that. You can catch it and deal with it when it's still very little.” 

Skin cancer hero stories

In the stories below, real patients celebrate their heroes, whereby someone encouraged them to get a skin check and saved their life.

Michele Smith
Michele Smith

My hero's name is Gizmo and he is a 10-year-old very loving, devoted Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Two years ago I noticed Gizmo's behaviour change in regards to me. He would constantly follow me and sniff a particular mole on my leg. When I sat down with him, his nose would constantly go to the mole on my leg. One day I was walking to the clothes line and virtually almost tripped over him because he wouldn't leave my leg alone. This is when I made the decision to get the mole checked out.

I explained to my GP what was going on and he laughed and said it didn't look to be anything serious but he would do a biopsy to be on the safe side. Within a couple of days he called me to say it was a stage 1 melanoma and would need a rather large incision to remove. Given my doctors surprise that this was actually a melanoma I decided to get a mole map done by the New Town Skin Centre.

They have since found another stage 1 melanoma which has also now been removed. So I can thank my lucky stars that I have this beautiful boy with a well calibrated nose for his owner. He has always been protective of me and I am so grateful to all involved. I now get checked every 6 months but I can feel reassured my dog will sniff it out first.

what causes skin cancer
John Shields

My hero is the doctor who acted so quickly to save my life 37 years ago! I went to a doctor to have an itchy rash on my face looked at. He asked if I was itchy anywhere else and I pointed out a mole behind my ear, hidden in my hair. He took one look at it, asked me to wait and left the room. When he came back in, he said "I have made an appointment with a specialist to have that looked at. Can you go right now?"

I drove straight to the specialist who saw me immediately, even though he had a room full of patients waiting. The same thing happened again: he left the room, came back in and said, "I have scheduled some time tomorrow in an operating theatre. Can you check into hospital this afternoon?"

I knew nothing at the the time about melanoma. He explained a little bit and said it was important to get onto it straight away. I still had no idea of the severity or significance of the situation. I spent five hours on the operating table while they removed a melanoma under my skin that was the size of the palm of my hand. The only indicator had been an itchy mole on the surface.

The surgeon stated afterwards that I shouldn't be here today and that if my melanoma had gone undiagnosed for another month or two, it would have been inoperable. So my hero is that doctor who acted so quickly.

Emma Liversidge
Emma Liversidge

I knew I was past due for my next skin cancer check and had it on my to-do list for some time. I had a basal cell carcinoma removed in my late 20s so I know how important it is to get checked regularly by skin cancer doctors. Plus, my mother and sister have histories of skin cancers, emphasising just how important it is for me to keep on top of my own skin health.

Even though the COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging in many ways, it gave me an opportunity to catch up on all my health-related appointments that I never manage to get to as a full-time working mum.

During my skin check, I discussed some concerns with my doctor, relating to some peeling I was experiencing on my lip over a period of time. This time, I was lucky to learn it was a sun spot. I discussed with the doctor the likelihood that I may have other nastier things on my lip that might be difficult to pick up. He outlined three options available to me, emphasising that it was my choice on what action to take, but providing his opinion. Now we have an action plan in place on how to watch my skin and reduce my likelihood of other skin cancer problems.

The reality is that the peeling on my lip could have been a symptom of something much worse. It is a reminder to always prioritise your health, including health checks, and not be afraid to raise any small issue. You never know what it might turn out to be!

Rachel White
Rachel White

My hero is my mum. When I was 12 years old, Mum noticed an abnormal freckle on my right tricep. Even though my mum had been told by her dermatologist that children didn’t need a skin check until they turned 16, she booked an appointment with our local GP to get my freckle looked at. The doctor referred us to Coorparoo Skin Cancer Centre.

I was completely unaware of my risk of developing skin cancer as I was only 12 years old. Little did I know that the freckle would turn out to be a melanoma. Fortunately, it was caught early and cut out immediately.

Thanks to my mum, the potentially life-threatening cancer is out of my body!

Jeremy North
Jeremy North

My hero is Linda, the Practice Manager of the New Town Skin Cancer Centre! I am a professional window cleaner and whilst window cleaning at the facility she suggested that I should book in to have my skin checked.

As a window cleaner I spend most of my work life outdoors which puts me in the high risk group of developing skin cancer.

The doctor found a melanoma on my arm which I was not aware of. This was picked up at an early stage thanks to the skin check, and was completely removed.

I am looking forward to a long and healthy life post melanoma diagnosis and will make sure I get my regular check-ups going forward.

Cameron Girdwood
Cameron Girdwood

My hero is the team at the cricket hub Cricket Southern Bayside (CSB). When they encouraged all members to get a skin check, I followed their advice and that potentially saved my life.

I had a suspicious spot on my forehead that I knew needed checking, but that wasn’t the end of it. Two spots on my face were biopsied and turned out to be basal cell carcinomas.

CSB gave me the push I needed to get a skin check! Don’t leave it to chance – do yourself and your family a favour, and go get checked. It doesn’t take long and it might save your life.

Bethany Taskis
Bethany Taskis

My hero is the amazing team I work with at Officer Skin Cancer Centre, who encouraged me to get a skin check.

Working here, I would see people walk through the doors every day and sometimes the doctors would find a nasty spot or two on their skin. I thought that couldn’t possibly happen to me; I was just a young mum with a desk job that hated the sun. I thought melanoma only affected the older generation or people who were always outside.

Growing up, my mother always followed me around with sunscreen in hand and I hated it, but I still developed freckles. And, having red hair and blue eyes, I was the trifecta.

Now I am 24 and have just had my second stage I malignant melanoma removed. Without a skin check I would never have found the melanomas. I am very grateful at how quickly they have been detected and removed, and I get my skin continuously monitored for any more.

I strongly urge anyone who hasn’t had a skin check to please go and have one, because now I am the mother following my children around with sunscreen!

Every minute an Australian is diagnosed with skin cancer, which comes in all shapes, colours and sizes, affects people of all ages, and can develop anywhere on the body. Early detection through regular skin checks is vital to successful treatment and cure.