MY MELANOMA STORY
18-year-old Sam Short is Australia’s latest superstar of the pool, winning gold in the 1500m and silver in the 400m freestyle at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.
What Aussie fans didn’t know was that just weeks earlier, on his first overseas trip representing Australia at the World Championships in Budapest, Sam had been diagnosed with a melanoma on his lower back. He underwent surgery as soon as competition finished.
‘It was an extremely stressful time for me and my family,’ Sam said. ‘I literally went from the pool to the operating table and had the melanoma removed along with a wider margin to ensure no cancer cells were missed. I needed 20 stitches and was left with a 6cm scar across my lower back.’
Only five weeks later, Sam was back in the pool at the Commonwealth Games where he took gold and silver.
Sam grew up spending many long days at the beach, being heavily involved in Surf Life Saving in Queensland before turning his efforts towards competitions in the pool. With Irish, Scottish and Dutch heritage, his fair complexion put him at higher risk for developing melanoma. As Melanoma Institute Australia’s youngest ambassador, he is now using his public profile to urge teens to protect their skin from the sun.
‘I never thought I’d be diagnosed with cancer at 18,’ Sam said. ‘My melanoma was a massive wake up call, as clearly my sun safety routine during all those years spent at the beach just wasn’t up to scratch. If by sharing my story I can encourage even one young Aussie to be more sun safe and regularly check their skin for changes, then it will be worth it.’
Peter Overton is a familiar face across Australia, spending the past 30 years as a journalist and news reader with the Nine Network. Having travelled the world to cover major world events including September 11 and the Bali bombings, and as a reporter with 60 minutes for nearly a decade, Peter is used to being on the news front line.
What Peter didn’t expect was to become the news - when he was first diagnosed with melanoma in November 2020. Peter underwent immediate surgery to remove the melanoma on his temple, which meant a stint in hospital and time away from the news desk. On his first night back on air, Peter selflessly shared his personal story, including his still healing surgical scars, as a warning to others to be sun safe and check their skin for changes.
Peter has since found three more melanomas on his back, requiring three more operations. Peter knows he is lucky as all his melanomas were caught early and removed before they had spread. With a high mole count, a childhood spent in the sun, and now with a history of melanoma, Peter is in a high risk group and undergoes regular screening and checks at Melanoma Institute Australia.
Peter used his public profile to support our Game On Mole campaign in 2020 and 2021, and we are delighted to have him join Melanoma Institute Australia as our National Ambassador.
‘I am living proof that early detection saves lives, and as a proud dad to two teenage daughters, I am passionate about reaching young Australians with sun safety and early detection messages. I am delighted to be a National Ambassador for Melanoma Institute Australia which is focused on not only raising awareness, but which also leads global research efforts to find a cure for melanoma.’
Cate Campbell is used to being in the national spotlight – a world record holder, Olympian and national swimming champion, she thrives on a challenge. One national title she wasn’t vying for, was to be diagnosed with Australia’s national cancer – melanoma.
Cate’s outdoor lifestyle, coupled with her fair Scottish complexion, put her at high risk of developing skin cancer. However, it was only after a friend had a close call with melanoma that she went for an overdue skin check. A mole on her arm was removed, which turned out to be Stage I melanoma.
Cate knows she is one of the lucky ones. Her melanoma was caught early and cured with surgery alone.
‘Melanoma affects so many people, not just the people who are diagnosed, but their friends and families as well. The ripple effect is huge. My melanoma developed in a mole I’d had my whole life, and on the surface, nothing looked like it had changed. I shudder to think what would have happened if I hadn’t had my skin checked. I hope that by sharing my story I can encourage young Australians to not only be sun-safe, but also vigilant about checking their skin.’
Cate has proudly supported ‘Game On Mole’ since its launch three years ago, and once again will be wearing the GOM tee to start life-saving conversations about skin health.
25-year-old model Oceana Strachan, who was diagnosed with melanoma in April 2021, has supported our ‘Game On Mole’ campaign for two years.
‘I have olive skin and naively thought if I got sunburnt, I would deal with the consequences much later in life,’ Oceana said. ‘But then I discovered an unusual looking mole on my leg and luckily, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, decided to go the doctor to get it checked. I was shocked when I was diagnosed with melanoma and ended up at Melanoma Institute Australia and having surgery.’
Following her shock diagnosis, Oceana shared her very personal melanoma story with her hundreds of thousands of followers on Instagram, in the hope it would help promote sun-safe behaviour and early detection of the disease.
‘I am so thankful that I didn’t delay seeking treatment,’ Oceana said. ‘And that’s why I’m proudly supporting ‘Game On Mole’ - if just one person hears my story, and checks their skin and seeks medical advice, then it will be worth it. These are life-saving conversations that all of Australia desperately needs to have,’ she said.
A Ninja legend and Olympic gymnast, Olivia Vivian knows first-hand the devastating impact of melanoma.
Olivia lost her dad Craig to melanoma in 2013, when he was 64. She understands the anguish of witnessing a loved one battle the disease, and the ongoing heartbreak for families.
In honour of her Dad, Olivia is using her Ninja star power to shine a spotlight on sun safety and melanoma prevention and treatment by getting behind 'Game On Mole'.
‘Sadly I lost my Dad to melanoma, so this one is personal for me,’ Olivia said. ‘Melanoma impacts more than just those diagnosed. But it is preventable, and it is treatable if caught early.
I’m all about taking risks with my sport, but not with something like this. It is up to all of us to spread the word about sun safety and skin health, so please join me in making 'Game On Mole' an Aussie conversation starter this summer.’
A legend of Australian rugby, John Eales captained the Wallabies to many triumphs, including winning the Bledisloe Cup, the Tri Nations and the World Cup.
John retired from rugby in 2001 as the highest scoring forward in test rugby history and one of Australia’s most successful Captains. Since John’s retirement he has applied his experience in sport to entrepreneurial means, having written two books about Leadership as well as creating a consultancy company and sports marketing company.
John now uses his profile to help many worthy causes, including melanoma awareness and research, a cause very close to his heart. John's father tragically died at age 66 from advanced melanoma which had spread to his brain. John is a proud ambassador of Melanoma Institute Australia, supporting the Game On Mole campaign each year and attending Melanoma March with his wife and four children.
“In sport and business I have always looked to partner with experts. Melanoma Institute Australia are world’s leading experts in the fight against melanoma, which is unfortunately all too often referred to as ‘Australia’s cancer’. Advancements are continually allowing husbands to spend more time with their wives, parents with their children and all of us with our friends. I am proud to be involved with such an inspirational organisation.”