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If I'd left mole any longer I probably wouldn't be here today ; DAD-OF-TWO TELLS OF HIS BATTLE WITH SKIN CANCER Words: KELLY BARKER Pictures: JEFF... [Daily Post (Liverpool, England)]
[June 11, 2011]

If I'd left mole any longer I probably wouldn't be here today ; DAD-OF-TWO TELLS OF HIS BATTLE WITH SKIN CANCER Words: KELLY BARKER Pictures: JEFF... [Daily Post (Liverpool, England)]

(Daily Post (Liverpool, England) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) If I'd left mole any longer I probably wouldn't be here today ; DAD-OF-TWO TELLS OF HIS BATTLE WITH SKIN CANCER Words: KELLY BARKER Pictures: JEFF PITT WHEN thrill seeker Pete Bursnall's wife started badgering him about a mole on his arm, nothing could have prepared him for the heartbreaking journey he was about to embark on.

Convinced it wasn't anything to worry about, the 44-year-old went on a sea kayaking adventure around the Scottish island of Skye, before he was forced to wake up to his worst nightmare.

Just one look at the melanoma on his upper arm and doctors told Pete if he'd left it any longer, his prognosis would be devastating.

But even a quick operation to remove the malignant mole in 2008 didn't mark the end of the fatherof-two's turmoil. Medics feared the deadliest form of skin cancer was still there, and put him back under the knife.

"They went in with a JCB that time - it was a much bigger job," recalls Pete, who lives in Caernarfon with his wife Aila and their children, Owen, 10 and sevenyear-old Riannon.

"They took an even bigger lump of flesh out of my arm that time around, and I was left with a hole that looked like an orange cut in half.

"Skin grafts from my thigh were used to cover the gap - it was surprising how agricultural it felt with metal clips holding it in place.

Pain: Pete with shortly after "After that, I'd hoped that was the end of it - but it wasn't." Dermatologists advised Pete to check his lymph nodes every time he had a shower - 18 months later, and to his horror, he found a lump the size of a marble under his armpit.

Support: With and Riannon, "I thought: God, here we go again, but this time was far more scarier than the last," he said. "The worst part was having to sit my two children down and tell them Daddy's cancer had come back and that it was more serious this time.

"You don't think about the strain something like this puts on your family. My wife developed ME from the stress of working full time and looking after me. The kids were very clingy and tearful and I felt guilty for causing their pain." Pete, who has no family history of malignant melanoma, added: "I started worrying, not just about my own health, but how my family were going to cope if anything happened to me.

"Something like this takes up a lot of your energy and it's hard to focus on everyone else when the cancer is in you." But the avid sportsman, who does management development work as well as mountain guiding and cycling, remained determined to fight it off.

He added: "Just the thought of having something so big growing inside your body on a daily basis was enough for me to make sure doctors were seeing me every week, because weeks can be the difference between life and death when you have cancer.

"Six weeks from finding the lump under my armpit, it had grown 2cm and I was in hospital having it removed. Further tests revealed there was no cancer anywhere else and that gave me a fighting chance." Pete's procedure - it's known as a right axial block dissection - involved the removal of his entire lymphatic system underneath his right armpit down to his chest.

It was carried out by Dr Kevin Hancock, a surgeon operating out of Abergele consulting rooms who specialises in malignant melanoma and non melanoma skin cancers.

Pete then spent weeks going between hospitals and the consulting rooms where lymphatic fluid was drained from his underarm. A biopsy revealed only one cancerous node had been discovered, meaning there was no need for him to undergo radiology.

Instead, he was just told to cover up more to protect himself from the sun - a main cause of melanomas.

a huge scar the operation "There is no silver bullet and no cure for cancer. All doctors can do is cut it out and monitor you, but it's been one year and two months post op and I've been told there is a 50% chance of me making it to five years," said Pete.

"But I think I've got a higher chance than that because I have many advantages on my side - I'm young, fit and slim. If I'd have been bigger, I may have never even discovered the lump in the first place.

kids Owen, 10, seven "There is a good chance cancer could get me though, but you've got to get on with life while you can. I'm not saying I live every day like it's my last, but there is such a thing as living for the day while planning for tomorrow - and that's how I get along." Cancer has never got in the way of Pete's active lifestyle, even though it might have slowed him down a bit. Just last week he completed a cycling triathlon, but he admits he finds certain activities, such as climbing, more difficult.

"I have a long-term outlook even though I've suffered some setbacks," he said. "I can't do everything at the level that I could do before, but that's a small price to pay." (c) 2011 ProQuest Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved.

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