How killing time saved a life

Attending a workplace health talk to pass time prompted a Perth woman to have her father get a lifesaving second opinion.

At first, *Jane Pimpernel wasn’t particularly enthusiastic about attending a workplace talk about skin cancer, organised by Bupa. But when 32-year-old Clinton Heal shared his personal experience, Jane couldn’t help but feel affected.

Clinton, a young, fit footy player, has had 35 metastatic melanomas removed from his body. When he was first diagnosed, after noticing a lump on his neck at a footy match, he was given a 10 per cent chance of survival.

Now, 10 years on, his focus as the head of Melanoma WA is on helping prevent skin cancer – and it’s working.

His message compelled Jane to have her father get a second opinion on a lump on his neck, which turned out to be a malignant melanoma.

 “I was killing time, I wasn’t really interested in hearing a story about skin cancer, but Clinton’s tale is a remarkable one,” says Jane.

“It had an impression... He’s a very engaging speaker so I stuck around until it finished.”

Clinton’s story stayed with Jane and when she saw her father, who had recently had a melanoma removed, she paid particular attention to a lump on his neck.

“When my father had this lump, I said, ‘Dad have you had that checked out?’ and he said, ‘Yes, yes the GP says it’s a cyst.’”

But Jane didn’t feel right about it and asked him to get a second opinion.

“Because I’d gone to the talk I said, ‘Yeah, you’d better check it out’.”

man getting his skin checked

She was right. When her father went to a skin specialist he was told the lump was malignant and needed to be removed urgently.

 “I think I would have gone along with the cyst line if I hadn’t gone to that talk.”

“I feel I should be wearing my underpants on the outside and a cape,” Jane jokes.

But in all seriousness, Jane and her father know the turn of events helped save his life.

Although the 81-year-old farmer is a man of few words, he thanked Jane for encouraging him to see a specialist.

“He said, ‘I have to thank you for making me get it checked,’” says Jane.

“His actually thanking me and acknowledging that my telling him to get it checked was appreciated, it validated my gut feeling and I took the acknowledgement with pride.”

Jane’s dad is now in remission though he still undergoes three-monthly scans to make sure the cancer doesn’t return.

Clinton says hearing Jane’s story is incredibly rewarding.

“These stories make me feel energised to keep spreading the message,” he says.

 “If I can take my diagnosis and journey and turn it into a positive for others, I’d almost feel selfish to keep it to myself.”.

The advice

Apart from regular self-checks, Clinton says it’s important everyone has a skin check every year from a GP or skin specific doctor first. 

You may need a referral to a dermatologist if there’s any doubt or if you have a family history of skin cancer.

“If you get told all is well and it doesn’t sit right with you then a second opinion is definitely worth getting,” says Clinton.

*Pimpernel is a pseudonym. Jane requested her last name not be used in the article for privacy reasons.

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