Health Stories

‘My daughter got skin cancer at the age of 12’

She has now issued a warning to all parents.

Deborah’s instinct saved her daughter’s life.

Here, Deborah White, 39, tells the story in her own words.

My three sporty kids loved the outdoors, so I made sure they kept covered up in the sun. And I booked Rachel, her twin Lachlan, then 12, and Sarah, then 10, in for a skin check every two years.

Then, last December, the check clashed with netball camp. When I called to reschedule, the doctor said not to worry. ‘You don’t need to get them checked until they’re 16,’ he said.

Feeling uneasy, I decided to check the girls myself. ‘I don’t like the look of this freckle on your upper arm,’ I said to Rachel.

It looked different to the others, light in some places and dark in others. We were referred straight to the skin cancer clinic. ‘It does look suspect,’ the specialist said, taking a biopsy.

The next morning, she rang with results. ‘It’s melanoma,’ she said. ‘We think it’s early stages.’

They wanted to remove it right away: ‘Will I be okay, Mum?’ Rachel, asked, scared. ‘Yes, I hope so,’ I said, not showing my own terror.

daughter and mother
Me and my beautiful girl Rachel (Credit: Supplied)

It wasn’t my family’s first brush with skin cancer. When Rachel was three, she’d been sitting on her grandad’s lap when she pointed to a mole. ‘That looks funny,’ she said. He agreed and got it checked out.  It turned out it had to be removed.

‘You’ve saved my life, Rachel,’ he gratefully told her afterwards.

Now, I had to hope Rachel was going to be as fortunate.

The next day, Rachel had her freckle removed under local anaesthetic.She was their youngest patient ever diagnosed with a melanoma but thankfully, there was also good news.‘We got it all,’ said the surgeon. ‘Thank you,’ I said, wrapping my arms around her.

We were told the melanoma had been growing for six months.‘She’s one of the lucky ones,’ the doctor said. ‘If it had been left another six months it would have invaded her lymphatic system and she could have died.’

We were stunned by our narrow escape. 

The freckle that was a melanoma (Credit: Supplied)

Rachel had to be checked frequently for the first year after the removal, then once a year for the rest of her life.

Now, six months on, Rachel has fully recovered. And she and her grandad, now 60, sport their badges of honour – matching scars!

Her classmates’ parents decided to get their kids checked too, just to be safe.

So, don’t wait until your kids are 16 to be checked. It’s better to be safe than sorry!

Read more in this week’s issue of that’s life!, on sale now.

Gripping podcast How I Survived this week features Rhonda Stapley who accepted a lift from the world’s worst serial killer, Ted Bundy, and lived to tell the tale. Subscribe via Omny:  or iTunes:

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