If ever anyone learned an important lesson the hard way, it’s Justine Sheils.
A self-confessed sunbed addict in her younger days, Justine was diagnosed with the skin cancer malignant melanoma in 2006.
She endured surgery to remove five tumours on her chest and scalp and has been given the all-clear from cancer for now.
But, despite being left with serious health issues, Justine is determined to raise awareness about the condition – and to support the pioneering science financed by North West Cancer Research.
The 44-year-old NHS administrator explained that – following years of very regular sunbed use and sun-worshipping foreign holidays – she consulted her GP about a mark on her chest.
“The first question I was asked was ‘do you use sunbeds?’ Within 72 hours I was told I had skin cancer,” said Justine.
“The consultant told me I had the skin of an 85-year-old, and I’m embarrassed to say that, right up to the day I was diagnosed, I was still going on sunbeds.
“I’ve been left with epilepsy and other lifelong health issues – all because I wanted a sun tan.”
Justine now takes every opportunity to highlight the importance of avoiding sunbeds and protecting your skin from the sun’s harmful rays.
And she’s keen to champion the important, quality research carried out by NWCR – especially as the charity does so much to fight cancer in and around her home city of Liverpool.
“It’s a local charity and I really believe people should be more aware of its work, as the skin cancer figures for the area are pretty bad,” said Justine.
She’s now in training to run the Manchester 10K race, and is enjoying life to the full.
“When you’re delivered the news that you have cancer, it feels like the end of the world,” said Justine.
“But I hope that my experience helps show people that you don’t always die from cancer.
“There comes a time when the good days outweigh the bad days.”
If you’re inspired by Justine’s example, why not donate, fundraise or volunteer to support NWCR’s world-class cancer research?
To find out more about skin cancer, visit NHS Choices.