I’m Sophie Plumridge and work in the not-for-profit sector in mental health. I’ve lived in Melbourne for most of my adult life, growing up in country Victoria and spending my secondary school years in Geelong.
What was your attitude to sun protection when you were younger?
I thought more about getting a tan than worrying about sun protection when I was younger. I remember sun baking on our trampoline in the backyard and using coconut oil, getting sunburnt at the beach and having hot showers to ‘take out the sting’ and playing a lot of sport outdoors – with little sun protection. Usually if I got sunburnt my skin would tan, rather than peel.
What kind of skin cancer were you diagnosed with?
I’ve had two Basel Cell Carcinomas (BCCs) removed this year– one on my right ear and the most recent one removed from the left side of my nose.
How did you feel when you were diagnosed?
I wasn’t too concerned to start with. On my Mum’s side of the family, my grandparents and Mum have had a lot of skin issues. My family tends to take things in their stride, so I just got on with the treatments. It’s become more concerning as it’s now more than a ‘one off’ issue and I’ve also had other non-cancerous lesions removed. I’m wondering what this means for the future as my skin ages.
What were your treatment options? What did you decide on and why?
It’s important to have BCCs removed as they can grow and become more of a problem with time. I decided to have them removed. The sooner they are diagnosed and removed the better. Having one BCC increases the risk of getting another.
What was surgery like?
I had the BCCs removed in two separate operations in hospital. Like any surgery it’s worrying, however I felt I was in very good hands with my surgeon who took time to explain things to me carefully and answered my questions.
My main concern was the surgery on my nose. I found it quite daunting to have surgery on my face and I also needed a skin graft. Skin was taken from in front of my ear and used on the side of my nose. I wasn’t sure what this would end up looking like and what this meant for my recovery.
What was post-surgery like?
The skin tone bandages, and tape help to make the areas where I had surgery less obvious. I went back and saw the surgeon after the surgery and the stitches on my nose were removed. I didn’t want to look at the skin graft at first, so waited until I was back in my car. I was surprised how good it looked and was quite relieved.
What is your attitude towards sun protection today?
I have been looking after my skin applying sunscreen, wearing hats and regularly seeing my dermatologist for many years now. After these surgeries, which did take me by surprise because of the short timeframe, I decided I needed to do more to look after my skin. I’m much more focused on skin protection now and have made changes to my lifestyle to help stay out of the sun.
What are your best sun protection tips?
- Take photos of any problem areas– you need something to compare against otherwise it’s hard to remember if a mole/blemish was there before or not. Check your skin against the photos every couple of months and follow up on any changes quickly.
- Don’t only look for moles – BCCs are not moles! For me they were sores that didn’t heal easily and then came back time and time again.
- Put on sunscreen every morning as part of your normal skincare routine and reapply if you are out in the sun – it doesn’t last all day!
- Be aware of the UV levels – you can sign up to apps and receive daily notifications.
- See a GP or dermatologist regularly.
- Consider your clothing and the activities you do outdoors – wear hats, long sleeves!
There is lots of information available you can check out the SunSmart website here - https://www.sunsmart.com.au/skin-cancer
What would you tell your 16-year-old self about taking care of your skin and sun protection?
Your skin health is much more important than you realize. Think twice about tanning and consider the consequences for your future self.
What would you tell other women who aren’t too concerned with sun safety and skin protection, especially young women?
If you want your skin to age well and be healthy it’s important to look after it when you are younger. Our Australian sun is so damaging. You won’t realize the damage that has been done until later in life. You can still enjoy yourself outdoors with some simple and smart changes. If you see something on your body or someone else’s that you are not sure about – get it checked!
You can follow Sophie on Instagram at bestfootforward_withsophie