You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Irishwoman who beat skin cancer twice after freckle symptom on leg at 19 warns others after 'mutilating' surgery

Irish Mirror logo Irish Mirror 28/07/2022 Michelle Cullen

An Irishwoman who beat cancer twice has warned others to know the signs of skin cancer after she almost ignored symptoms.

Kate Moloney said she first noticed something wasn't right after she picked a freckle on the back of her calf, and it bled for an unusual amount of time.

The primary school teacher said: "My father died of cancer when I was 16, and not long after he died, I picked a freckle on the back of my right calf."

READ MORE: Disgraced former garda Paul Moody in isolation in prison over safety fears after being caged for coercive control

She added: "That freckle bled for a strange amount of time. It was a long time, and I remember holding it over the bath and everything and watching the blood trickle down and thinking that this was a little odd, but I had teenage skin, so I think that was the catch there.

Kate Moloney © Kate Moloney Kate Moloney

"I didn't really think too much of it after, but it did develop then into a black bumpy kind of itchy growth over time. So I waved it off. I kind of ignored it really, until I went into my GP.

"I had a chest infection at the time, and I showed it to him, and he showed concern, and then he sent me to a dermatologist, and they figured out that it was melanoma. I was 19 at that stage."

Kate was brought into Galway Hospital to undergo further tests, a trip that brought back a flood of emotions as it was where her father had passed away three years previously.

She said: "I was brought back into Galway Hospital, and that was where my dad had died three years previous, so it was a lot for the head really.

"I went back in, and I shared the same oncologist as him, who I don't ever want to see again, to be honest."

Kate then had surgery to have the melanoma and the surrounding area of the calf removed as a precaution.

Tissue from her groin was also taken for examination to ensure the cancer had not spread.

The traditional Irish musician said: "It didn't spread that time, so I was left with very obvious scarring on my right calf, but I kind of felt like I got my ticket to freedom then because I didn't digest what was going on at all because I was still so numb over my father's death and I didn't really realise."

Kate Moloney © Kate Moloney Kate Moloney

Kate said she was "suffering from trauma" and "tried to barrel through and shove everything down" as she was in music school at the time as well in college in UL, and our main concern was just going out of the tear".

She added: "I held my breath, and luckily it didn't spread, and somehow I'm cancer free, but I just didn't realise the seriousness of melanoma itself, so I carried on, and all went kind of quiet then for seven years."

Unfortunately for Kate, the cancer returned seven years later.

She said: "It was around Christmas time, and I found a lump in my right groin, and my surgeon had me warned about where the cancer could migrate to. So he said, anything tiny at all, you're straight in.

"I had been in for a few scares before, so in the back of my head, I thought 'no, this couldn't be it', but then I realised in the hospital in Limerick they started moving me around quickly and then I knew."

Kate added: "I kind of knew more this time around because I'd learned a little about melanoma, so I was really scared this time.

"The second time around, I felt like it was much harder because you're a lot more aware. I had more knowledge on it, and I was actually just really pissed off as well because I was in my mid-twenties, and I was going full steam ahead, and I thought I just couldn't leave things behind me, but here it came back to knock on my door again.

"For about five weeks, I was waiting on the results, and it was terrifying, to be honest, really, really scary… if I got bad news, I knew it was going to be a very, very tough battle, but luckily enough it hadn't spread to my main organs. It was just localised this time to the lymph nodes, so then I went into my surgery, and I got that cut out.

"It was amazing the fact that it didn't spread because I was very much on the verge of it being terminal."

As a side effect of the surgery, Kate developed lymphedema in her right leg and will have to wear a compression sock for the rest of her life. Something she says is "a small price to pay for my life".

She said: "It's very uncomfortable, and it's a chronic kind of progressive disease that's very hard to manage.

"I tried to get over dad's death, the first cancer diagnosis and then the second one was where it all kind of blew up in my face because I realised I was walking the plank this time.

"The reality really hit me because I do think I went into a lot of denial and then oddly enough with the lymphedema kind of forced me to look at my lifestyle because I started to notice that my lifestyle was affecting the pain levels in my leg.

"Reluctantly enough, I stopped drinking alcohol and started a complete overhaul of my lifestyle, and it reversed so much pain in the leg. The swelling went down. The leg is pretty much the same size as the other, which is quite hard to get when you have lymphedema because my leg had gotten very big, and it was really sore."

Kate has now returned to work and says after some time in therapy, she has learned to deal with her trauma and how to enjoy her life once again.

She said: "The message that I would like to get across is that it's treatable if it's got in time.

"Time is everything. I nearly waved off both scares. I put one down to an ingrown hair, one down to teenage skin in my head but just go in if you think at all.

"I would say as well look for your loved ones, even if you think you're being a hypochondriac or it's not necessary, if it's niggling at you, go into your GP."

Kate also warned against the use of sunbeds.

She said: "I reckon sun beds should be banned. They are so connected to melanoma. They are banned in Australia.

"I feel really, really strong about that. Not to ever dream of going near a sunbed because if they could see what has been physically, I'm physically maimed. It's mutilating. The surgery is mutilating.

"If all those who are going on sunbeds could see what damage has been done to my leg, they would run a mile from them".

Kate is now a spokesperson for the HSE's SunSmart campaign, which she hopes will raise awareness of the importance of skin protection. More information can be found here.

READ NEXT:

Get breaking news to your inbox by signing up to our newsletter

AdChoices
AdChoices

More from the Irish Mirror

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon