“I first used sunbeds after a holiday in Majorca with the girls when I was 18. We hit the bars at night and slept on the beach during the day. When we got back home I loved my tan and wanted to keep it topped up, so I started using the sunbeds – it seemed like a good idea at the time.
Over time I began to use sunbeds more and more. I wasn’t happy unless I had an all year round, sunkissed tan. I was willing to do everything I could to stay as tanned, and in my early twenties I even bought my own sunbed and used it every day.
Looking back, I realise I was addicted to sunbeds. I was convinced that if I even missed one day I would look pale and unattractive, which seems ridiculous when I look back now.
When I was 24 I noticed a mole on the side of my tummy had changed to an irregular shape. It had turned a much darker colour and become itchy. I was worried about it, so I showed my GP as quickly as I could and they had it removed in hospital.
Luckily, they confirmed it wasn’t cancer, but they told me I should take extra care in the sun and avoid using sunbeds in future. I was terrified about getting cancer and this was the scare that I needed to stop using sunbeds. After that I never used them again.
I started to use fake tan instead and now wear SPF 30+ when I’m in the sun here and SPF 50+ whenever I go abroad. But the damage had already been done as, just last year I noticed a tiny translucent mark on my nose. The hospital told me I needed a punch biopsy to check if it was cancer.
The biopsy left a small hole on the tip of my nose, which is visible even when I’m wearing make-up. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, a few months later I had a further biopsy taken from the side of my nose – this left a bigger hole, which is even more visible than the earlier surgery.
But that was only the beginning of my bad news; the surgery revealed I have two facial skin cancers. I’m now waiting for more surgery to remove the remainder of the cancer and I was horrified when I found out it will involve taking away part of my nose. I will then have two further operations to reconstruct my nose using tissue and skin from my forehead and depending how deep the cancer has penetrated, they may need to transplant cartilage from my ear. I may need a fourth or fifth operation before my face is fully reconstructed.
Not enough is done to warn young girls about the dangers of sunbeds. I wish I’d never used them now, and had known about the increased danger of using them when you are young and your skin is more delicate.
It’s simply not worth gambling with your life and your looks when fake tan is so good these days. They don’t smell horrible, they don’t leave you looking orangey or streaky, they just make you look fab without risking your health.
I’m now 47 and very open about my diagnosis and what’s caused of it. I have a daughter who is 8 and I hope that she learns from my experience and doesn’t ever use sunbeds.