This is not the easiest thing to write about

9 October 2020
We got our internet connection back yesterday afternoon so I'm pleased to be back with you. There'll be no Weekend Reading today because I haven't been online for a couple of weeks; it will return next week. During our time offline I've been gardening, taking plant cuttings, sewing, baking, cooking, grocery shopping, reorganising things in my home, reading another Wendell Berry book - Andy Catlett, Early Travels: A Novel, and relaxing on the front verandah with Hanno and Gracie. I enjoyed those two weeks a lot.

But I also lived one of the worst days of my life during that time. My son Kerry was diagnosed with stage two melanoma. I've never been so scared in my life. Kerry handled it very well and although he was worried, he went ahead with all the tests, scans and surgery and then had to wait a week for the results. We were all so relieved when the surgeon reported that he removed the melanoma and nearby gland and that instead of stage two, it was stage one. Removal of the gland revealed the cancer hadn't spread.

I spoke with Kerry yesterday and asked if I could write about this. He agreed and wants me to pass on an important message to you. He said it's vitally important that we all check our skin, especially with summer coming up. He said that even if you think there is no problem, just like he did, to do a thorough check and go to your doctor if you find anything out of the ordinary. The doctor actually asked him what made him have the check-up because it didn't look like a melanoma. He had no pain, no itching and no reason to be worried, but he was and he acted on instinct and got it checked. That saved him and I can't express how grateful I am that he took that step, had a check and got the treatment he needed. Australia has the highest incidence of melanoma in the world so please check your skin today and make sure you check the kids too. How to check your skin.


Herbs and a transplanted orange tree.

After Kerry's scare, things returned to normal and the rest of life is pretty good at the moment. We're getting ready for summer outside - we'll be cleaning the windows next week and trying to protect the garden from wind and sun with straw mulch. Our sun umbrella it up all the time and I'm wearing broad-spectrum sunscreen but most of all not spending too much time in the sun. I still have to clean out the bush house and repot a few plants and hope to get that done soon. I only have about three weeks before the humidity starts and want everything done before that.

We always have water out for the birds and insects.

Yesterday, today and tomorrow - Hanno's favourite plant.

The Down to Earth paperback arrived last week.  I'm delighted with it and will take photos tomorrow and write about it over the weekend.  

I hope you're well and safe from the coronavirus. Over 35 million people confirmed with it so far and there is no sign yet that it's easing. The state I live in has a handful of cases, all from returning travellers, so we're out and about but still very mindful of the dangers and abiding by the advice given to us. Take care. xx

66 comments

  1. I'm so sorry to hear of Kerry's health scare and thankful that he is okay. Thank goodness he did listen to his gut and get it checked and treated quickly. All the best for your continued health and full recovery Kerry. Enjoy your outside work Rhonda and Hanno before the dreaded humidity sets in. And thanks for the prompt, as I should do the same. Cheers, Kelly

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    1. Thanks Kelly. I'll get Kerry to read these later. I'm sure he'll appreciate the kindness and support. xx

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  2. My sister went and got a mole checked as it didn't look good and turned out to be a level 3 melanoma so I went and I had a stage 2 one which I now have a 12 cm scar on my shoulder. My sister had to be on chemo tablets for 12 months and I get my skin checked every 3 months now and went last week. Queensland has one of the highest melanomas in the world and getting checked every 6 months is vital although I go every 3 months now. Glad everything is going okay now and as they say health is wealth. Wishing you all a better week. Kathy

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    1. It will be good for Kerry to read your comment Kathy. Thanks for sharing your story. xx

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    2. Getting it early is essential and going for 3 monthly skin checks forever. All the best it's a big shock for your family and those little moles look so innocent. Kathy

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  3. Glad to hear it all turned out ok for your son!! Tis hardest of all to have children facing such!! I have a strange place that has come and am to see the skin doc shortly. Tis wise as we age, to have it checked every so often.

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  4. It seems so strange watching you prepare for planting and summer as we are cutting everything back, cleaning out our garden beds and getting ready for winter! I'm so glad that Kerry got checked and that everything turned out okay.

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  5. Thank goodness your son went to the doctor and I'm pleased that the outcome was better than expected. Keep safe.

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    1. Yes, we're very grateful he got early treatment. xx

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  6. Great news about Kerry! It is such a worrying time waiting for the full results of tests & surgery. My husband was diagnosed with a melanoma when he was in his mid 20's, luckily his brother, a doctor, saw my husband in the garden with his shirt off & noticed it. My BIL arranged for a check-up and within days my hubby was having surgery to remove it. We credit my BIL with saving my husband's life, as my hubby nor I had taken no notice of the strange brown mole.
    Hubby is now 64, and has had 3 melanoma's removed over the last few years, these recent ones have been picked by the specialist my husband sees every year.
    My husband's family seem to have a history of skin cancer and I wonder if dna, or one's immune system also play a part in melanomas developing, as hubby never bares his skin to the sun, since his early 20's.
    But you are right, checking & being familiar with one's moles and skin is vital, as is regular check-ups.

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    1. Lucky your BIL noticed the melanoma. I'll get Kerry to read your comment later. It's important he sees this kind of information. xx

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  7. Dearest Rhonda, My heart hit the floor when I read about Kerry's scare. I worry every summer that my husband and four sons are not following sun smart guidelines. I'm not one for sticking to the rules, I bend them where ever possible but when it comes to health there's no mucking around. I'm glad it all turned out well for you all, love to you both from Mandi

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  8. I stopped and said a prayer of thanks that your son got his skin checked and the cancer successfully removed. I had a scare with that 5 years ago and now always wear a broad-brimmed hat when outside, and long sleeve tops, etc.

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  9. Oh my god! as I understand your fear!
    My husband has his skin checked every year, because he had a carcinoma removed a few years ago... I take great care with exposure to the sun,with small children too (tee-shirts, sunglasses, cream...)
    I'm happy it all ends well for Kerry.
    Like Debi,here in France, we are getting ready the garden for the winter!
    All my best health wishes for you and your family, Rhonda.

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  10. How awful and scary for all of you. Thank goodness Kerry listened to his gut instinct. My dad had a melanoma that required skin grafts so I ensure I have a skin check every year. All the best to your Family ��

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  11. Rhonda, I get my skin checked every 6 months. The skin cancer cream Efudix seems to be recommended each time I visit lately. After getting a squamous cell carcinoma cut off my nose a while back I am very cautious about being in the sun. If only young people would be more careful but they continue to sunbake etc. I am glad Kerry came out of this crisis as well as he did.I can understand how worried you must have been.

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    1. Good to hear you're responding well to the cream, Chel. Hanno had a SCC shaved off earlier this year.

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  12. Dear Rhonda... my best wishes for you and your family. stay safe!!

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  13. So glad he acted on instinct. My hubby had one checked that I had noticed. It was checked by the hospital and removed very quickly, also low grade. My DinL’s father wasn’t lucky. Despite regularly going to his doctor who kept saying it wasn’t cancer, eventually someone said yes but it was too late, such a waste of a very lovely and talented man.

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    1. oh no, that's such a sad thing about your Dil's father. Early detection helped your husband too. It seems to be the key. xx

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  14. So happy for Kerry and his outcome. My mother too acted on instinct and had a melenoma removed many years ago with a good outcome. Sometimes you just know...don't you...that something needs to be checked.
    Your garden is looking lush and lovely as always. I am looking forward to the growing season!

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    1. Thank you Karen. yes, sometimes you just know. We have to trust our instincts more. xx

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  15. I’m so glad that Kerry is ok xx

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  16. Hi Rhonda,

    I'm so glad to hear Kerry is okay. A few months ago I noticed a mole I had accidentally scratched had changed. I just had a feeling something really wasn't right and when I had it checked they thought it looked like melanoma and should be removed and biopsied. It was a horrible wait to get the results but luckily it turned out to be a basal cell carcinoma. So yes, it was cancer, but thankfully not melanoma and the surrounding tissue was all healthy.

    I almost didn't get this checked as whenever I have had tests run or scans there is never a thing wrong with me. So I almost didn't get this checked for fear of wasting the doctor's time, but am thankful I followed my gut. I now have an inch long scar on my collarbone to remind me that life is precious and to continue to follow my intuition in future.

    Madeleine. X

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  17. Your son’s story hit home. My Mom was dx with Melanoma when she was 39. She is now 85 and no recurrence all these years! I’ve been very careful in the sun all these years, but just dx with Basal Cell Carcinoma on my face. Having Mohs surgery next week. I’ve had numerous places removed over the years that were all normal. So this one was a shock. I was just being cautious due to Mom’s history. Never let your guard down! Praying your son has as good a course of cure as my Mom has had. Love your blog, look forward to it and your beautiful pictures. All the best to you and your family from here in Berea, Kentucky (USA).

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  18. Gosh what a scare, I'm so glad things have turned out okay though. It is so good that he is vigilant and got things checked out.

    Love the idea of the old lid in the birds and insects water dish, so much prettier than the stones I have in mine.

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  19. I am so sorry that Kerry had such a scare.

    He is one hundred percent correct. I have had had a melanoma removed. My doctor didn't want to biopsy it but after insistence he did. My melanoma was hiding in a birth mark. I later had a squamous cell carcinoma grow under a skin tag. So it is very important to have check ups and to know your own skin.

    Ipray that this is the end of the cancer journey for Kerry.

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  20. That is great news for Kerry. Enjoy that beautiful space you have now in much calmer circumstances.

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  21. Praying that your son will stay cancer free. Every day we are blessed with is a gift. Thanks for sharing the loveliness that surrounds you in your gardens. ~ Love, hugs and prayers ~ FlowerLady

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  22. So glad to hear your son's news was not as bad as first thought.

    A couple of years ago, my partner had what we thought was an infected hair follicle on his face, which kept bleeding & crusting over. I suggested he went to our then GP to see if it could be cauterised. He did so, and the doctor immediately referred him to the hospital for an urgent skin cancer test. The biopsy came back positive, but fortunately for a slower growing type. Even so, within 2 months he was in hospital to have the growth (the size of a strawberry) removed, and fortunately got the all clear within weeks of that so the reconstructive op could be done.

    Because of the location of the wound - the crease between the corner of his mouth & his nose, it was fairly prominent, and impacted his self esteem. He didn't want to leave the house & mix with people - at first for fear of infection, then because he felt mishapen & didn't want to attract attention. All this was compounded by an unsympathetic boss who thought that as he was out of hospital he should be back in work full-time. He felt so uncomfortable that the union negotiated a settlement for him & he quit rather than face the bully again.

    During his time at home recuperating, he got into an social media discussion with someone who was starting up a cargo cycle courier firm in a neighbouring borough. He was invited down to look at the bikes & try them out, and what had started as a bike nerd online conversation became an informal interview & then a formal job offer. He's still there nearly two years later, happier & more fulfilled than he was at his higher paying desk job.

    The upshot - yes, one side of his top lip is uneven, but only obvious if he doesn't shave for a few days. And these days, he's ultra diligent about mask wearing, so who's to know but those closest to him? He's very strict about sunscreen, (as am I) especially as he works outdoors mostly. He's still reticent to talk about what he went through, but is hyper aware of any blemish, including my many freckles. We've had it drilled into us what skin cancer USUALLY looks like, but sometimes it wears a disguise. Don't be afraid to get checked out if you have the slightest suspicion, even in these days.

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    1. Thanks for sharing your story. The more people know about melanoma and other skin cancers, the more they'll know about the importance of skin checks.

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  23. Oh, how lucky for Kerry but how scary and shocking you and the family through the ordeal! I pushed a girlfriend to have a little spot on her toe checked and the first two dermo's considered it nothing to worry about and I badgered her to see a third specialist and of course, it was a grade 1 melanoma, requiring a hospital stay but nothing more. Her GP was very reluctant to write another referral and brushed off the outcome with remark that specialists are allowed to get it wrong! Biopsies are so important. When in doubt, cut it out is my motto.

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    1. It's so important to check anything unusual on your skin and to trust your instinct. Thankfully you pushed your friend into those checks and she had a good outcome. xx

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  24. I'm sorry to hear that about your son, but thankful that it was dealt with. My mom has cervical cancer which has returned with a vengeance so I understand that fear. It's good he caught it before it became more serious!

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    1. I hope your mum comes through her cancer, Terri. Take care. xx

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  25. What a fright for everyone, Rhonda! I am pleased to know that your son has had the melanoma taken care of; and good on him for following his inner voice. I will keep him in my thoughts and prayers.

    It is fun getting ready for a new season; enjoy your preparations for summer.

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  26. Best wishes to Kerry and all of the people that love him. He was very lucky! Most young men think they are invincible and would ignore their intuition. Thankfully you raised a son with a lot of good, common sense. My BIL had a much later stage melanoma removed from his leg 17 years ago and made a full recovery with no recurrence. The odds were against this. Why did he wait so long to see a doctor? Because he thought it was nothing. Only when his daughter rolled into town and caught a glimpse of it did he go to the doc, and then only because she wouldn't shut up about it. Silly man!

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    1. Thank you. Your BIL is a lucky man. Early detection is THE best way to deal with melanoma and other skin cancers. It's good he had people to push him into treatment.

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  27. Rhonda, I'm glad Kerry had a good outcome and that you are all out from under that worry. I remember having my first serious medical problem around his age and it was a shock - you don't think you're old enough to have deal with doctors, hospitals, tests and surgery. On the plus side, it acts as a good motivator to do what you can to stay healthy and away from the medical world. I love your Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow bush - wish it would grow here, but it's way out of my zone - so I'll enjoy yours instead :) Beth in MN

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  28. I'm so glad your son followed his instincts and acted early.

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  29. Thank you for writing about this as so many people are unaware of the need for skin checks. I’m glad that Kerry found the lesion early. I live in Florida, USA and have had one squamous cell and two basal cell skin cancers removed. My father had a melanoma lesion removed which makes me higher risk. A you g woman that I grew up with in south Florida died at 35 from melanoma. She was a beautiful blue eyed blonde.
    JoAnna

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  30. Gosh. I was so sorry to hear about Kerry, but also so relieved to read that he will be OK. Sending best wishes for a fast recovery from his surgery.

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  31. Oh what a shock & thank God he is ok!💕

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  32. Thanhfull that everything turned out alrigth for Kerry and that he keeps checking regular.
    Keep your distans to people, stay safe and healty. Enjoy your summer and hope that it´s not too hot this year. Kindly Annika W

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  33. What a scare for all of you - and when it´s a child of whatever age!! It´s wonderful to hear that Kerry trusted that gut instinct and that the outcome is a good one. I lived in Sydney as a young woman from 1963-76 and we knew so little then about skin cancer. Now living in Sweden I now have a "souvenir" from those days. Luckily it´s the stage before scc but on several ugly spots on the backs of my hand and flaky skin on my nose that doen´t disappear with skin cream. I was never a sunbather in Sydney having white skin and freckles but you can hardly live there as a young person and avoid the sun can you? Now our oldest son, his wife and our granddaughters, 15 and 17 have just moved to Melbourne (They could write a book about that hassle). I hope I´ve managed to dang the dangers of strong sun into their heads. Still, I worry for them with Melbourne being badly hit by Corona although figures there are much better than Sweden and the region they left. Our region Uppsala is at the moment topping the list of confirmed cases, mainly due to it being the largest university city. Students returned to uni in September.

    Your garden looks beautiful and your days really meaningful as you prepare for the heat. Here we can still enjoy the autumn colours but it´s a short season so we are tidying up and closing down, setting up extra insulation for part of the greenhouse etc. We have been isolated since the beginning of March but haven´t really been bothered with that. The garden kept us busy and gave us a beautiful relaxed space. The coming winter will test our resources but we are in a better situation than many so we´ll be trying to keep the wingeing to a minimum.

    Take care!
    Ramona xx

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  34. Wonderful that he caught in early! Don't forget to have eyes checked regularly as well. You can develop a nevus (freckle) on the retina that can develop into melanoma. We have a family history and I wish my grown boys would slip slap slop more.

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  35. I am so sorry to hear about Kerry, Rhonda, but grateful that he followed his instincts & had himself checked out. Your pictures are wonderful. It's off for me to think of "spring coming" as it is autumn here in Indiana... with winter on its heels. Enjoy your spring weather... such a beautiful time of year. ~Andrea xoxo

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  36. Gosh that sounds really worrying, I am so glad to hear that the treatment has been positive and has worked. It is very unsettling isn't it, Thank goodness Kerry followed his instincts they are so important aren't they.

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  37. Truly sorry to hear about your scare. The horrible thing with any skin cancer is that it can look like nothing and be really serious and can look awful and be nothing.
    If you are using all that sunscreen watch your Vitamin D levels. Mine had gone so low that I almost had rickets. The main symptom was a general malaise. Everything was too much trouble. Jill from Laidley

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  38. I'm so glad that your sun is okay. I have a friend who died very young from melanoma, she left behind a husband and baby. It was so sad. You sound busy and happy, as usual. I love those purple flowers!

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  39. Hi Rhonda
    I also am glad that your son caught his Melanoma early, and I feel for you all going through that experience.
    Three of my four brothers had Melanomas successfully removed before the age of 40; my Dad and I have each had multiple Basal Cell Carcinomas removed over the years.
    It does seem to run in families - whether it's genetic or a lifestyle thing I can't say. We all grew up spending time outside every possible moment, and a tan was seen as a healthy thing.
    Ironically, I am now Vitamin D deficient despite spending a lot of time outside. I am careful about sun protection; I think that Vitamin D deficiency is a lot easier to treat than skin cancer.
    The advice that I've had from the plastic surgeon who removed a BCC from my face was that the damage leading to skin cancers is often done decades before the cancers appear.
    If we keep our kids protected, perhaps the occurance of skin cancers will decline in the next generation.
    Wishing you and your family good health!
    Kellie

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  40. Sending best wishes that he stays well. His scare and your post about it may end up saving someone's life.

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  41. I am sorry you had to go through such a scare. But the news is good to find it only in stage one. Prayers and good thoughts sent.

    Question? What is the name of the purple and white flower? I love it and don't remember ever seeing it? I would love to plant it as ground cover around an old stump that I use to set a butterfly water dish/feeder.

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    1. Here is some about the plant - which we call Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow: https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/ornamental/shrubs/yesterday-today-tomorrow/yesterday-today-tomorrow-plant.htm It's a shrub so no good as a ground cover. It needs warm weather too.

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  42. Oh dear that scary news makes your stomach drop doesn't it? I am so glad you have a positive result. The worries of parenthood are here for life aren't they! We also are of Irish/English and on my husbands side German lineage with the fairest of skins and issues thankyou for the reminders to pay attention. Your garden looking gorgeous,my sort of garden. Spring flowers down here,like apple blossom,sweet peas and foxgloves lighten the mood,and I have 'brandywine' tomatoes almost ready to plant out as the weather warms up.Best wishes to you all stay safe🙃

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  43. Thank goodness Kerry’s instinct told him to get checked. Best wishes to him for a good outcome. On another note, the sloping lid in the birdbath is a stroke of genius - no matter the water level it will be just right for the various insects. Love it 💗

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  44. How horrible for you all. I’m so glad Kerry is okay. PennyL

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  45. That was an awful worry with Kerry. so glad he is okay. Please pass on my thanks for allowing you to mention his scare. This prompted me to go and have a very long overdue skin cancer check today which was fine.

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  46. That must have been such a scary time for all of you Rhonda. I am so happy to hear that Kerry is ok, it must have been a relief to all of you. My father was diagnosed with melanoma in 1985 and had a massive scar on his shoulder as a result of it being removed. I too am extremely moley and get my skin checked every year and have had several moles removed, not melanoma thankfully. I recently purchased a long sleeve top for myself by a Melbourne company called Solbari that has a UPF rating of 50+ so I can spend some time outdoors a little but be very protected. They have lots of different clothes and hats too. I hope you are feeling relaxed now and enjoying the spring weather.
    Cheers Catherine

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  47. What an awful shock for you all. Thank God Kerry listened to his instinct and went for that check up. Wishing him a full and speedy recovery from the surgery and the shock. Hope you have a lovely summer and the humidity does not get too bad.

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