When 48-year-old Auckland pharmacist and mother of two Nichola Murray discovered a small pinhead-sized nodule on her shin last year, she initially didn’t think too much of it. However, by the end of the year, she noticed it had grown and thought she should get it checked out.
“It looked clear in colour, with regular borders, and I thought it was a dermatofibroma, which I’ve had before.
“In the busy lead-up to Christmas, I figured I’d leave getting it checked until the New Year. When the kids went back to school in February, I was walking the dog with a friend when we saw the Melanoma New Zealand Spot Check Van parked by Narrow Neck beach. So, on the spur of the moment, we decided to go and get a spot check.
“When it was my turn to jump in the van, I was struck by how lovely and warm Gill was, so I relaxed immediately. Gill took one look at the nodule on my leg and said I needed to go to a doctor as soon as possible. She told me to say I had been to the Melanoma New Zealand van and tell them that they were concerned that it could be a melanoma.
“I got an appointment with a specialist soon after that, and he removed it. I remember driving home from work a couple of weeks later and getting a call from the doctor’s surgery saying they needed to see me. I immediately knew something was wrong. The next thing I knew, I was diagnosed with stage 3A melanoma and was heading to hospital for further surgery. I was really worried at that point that the cancer had spread. I had to have a wide excision on my leg and a biopsy of my lymph nodes.
“It was tough waiting for the results, but thankfully it ended at that point, as my lymph nodes were all clear and there was no further spread.
“I have no doubt that my visit to the Spot Check Van that day saved my life.
“If I had waited any longer to get it checked out, my prognosis could have been very different. I have two children, aged 12 and 14, and they need their mum
“The Spot Check Van and Gill were in the right place, at the right time. I am so thankful my melanoma was caught before spreading any further.
“I was really shocked that the pinhead nodule was a melanoma. I am a pharmacist, so have some medical knowledge, and have always been aware of melanoma and the importance of skin checks. My lump didn’t fit the usual criteria for skin cancer — but while I thought it was clear in colour when my specialist viewed it with his dermatoscope, it had slightly pink borders, which can be a warning sign of melanoma.
“If you notice any change to your skin, go and get it checked out by a medical professional — waiting too long can cost you your life. As working mums, we are all so time poor, and it can be difficult to make time for ourselves. It is scary to think that I may not have gotten around to seeing my doctor in time. I am forever grateful to Melanoma New Zealand for the mobile van being there that day.
“I know it’s just one van working its way around the country right now doing an amazing job to raise awareness and provide spot checks along the way, so let’s get behind the cause, get more funding and imagine if we could clone it so there are vans travelling all over New Zealand to help save lives!!”