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'I learned the hard way' - TD urges public to use sunscreen after shock cancer diagnosis

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Peadar Tóibín had cancerous tumour removed from his scalp

Peadar Tóibín had cancerous tumour removed from his scalp

Peadar Tóibín had cancerous tumour removed from his scalp

A Meath TD has revealed that a skin cancer scare which led to the removal of a tumour from his scalp has made him 'reorder' his perspective and priorities.

Aontú party leader Peadar Tóibín (45) recently underwent surgery to remove a melanoma tumour on his head and is awaiting a scan to ensure the cancer hasn't spread.

The Meath West Deputy also disclosed that his wife had melanoma six years ago.

His own diagnosis led to sleepless nights about how to explain the cancer to his four young children.

"It was a fair shock," said the Navan native.

"I found a small lump, the size of a fingernail on my scalp around Christmas time.

"I do a bit of gardening in my spare time, so I wasn't sure if it was just a scrape that wasn't healing or what.

"I had been meaning to get it checked out over the lockdown, but like so many others, I had the feeling that doctors appointments were hard to get.

"I have a brother who works in Dermatology but because of the lockdown, I hadn't seen him in about four months. When we did finally meet, he told me to go straight to a doctor.

"The doctor took the biopsy and called me about ten days later to tell me it was a mid-sized melanoma tumour.

"He gave me plenty of detail but he obviously realised after a few minutes that I had completely zoned out and wasn't taking anything in.

"So he asked to speak instead with my wife Deirdre.

"I have to say that being told you have skin cancer is a strange sensation.

"Deirdre had melanoma six years ago so we had experience of the dark cloud that descends on you and your family.

"You never really know what it is like unless you are in it. It does reorder your perspective and priorities," he said.

Initial exploration on the tumour demanded a second operation and Peadar is still awaiting a scan to ensure the cancer didn't spread.

As he awaits the final hurdle, he is appealing to people to wear a hat and sunscreen - something he didn't do.

Spread

"I'm waiting for a pet scan to make sure the cancer hasn't spread. Then I have an all over skin search every three months for three years, followed by a biannual exam for the next two.

"If that all goes well, we are home and dry, please God.

"Ever since Deirdre's melanoma, we have been rigid with sun cream and the hats on the children.

"I'm not a sun worshipper but I do love gardening and being out and about and over the years unfortunately, I didn't use sun protection.

"I've learned the hard way. Skin cancer is the most common cancer in Ireland, with 10,554 cases of non-melanoma skin cancer and 1,138 cases of melanoma each year.

"Cases of melanoma skin cancer have trebled in 20 years in Ireland and shockingly 160 people die from it each year.

"Many of these deaths are preventable with the use of sun cream and hats."

Mr Tóibín also said his own diagnosis has made him aware of the fears cancer patients are feeling about treatment delays due to Covid-19 restrictions.

"I also know first hand the fear that cancer patients and others with serious illnesses have due to delays in treatments

"It doesn't make any sense that you can get a hair cut in this country but you can't get a cancer breast check or have a face-to-face consultation if you have serious mental health issues.

"Many people who are cancer symptomatic are not getting the diagnostics or the treatment that they need.

"It's estimated that one-third of all excess deaths during these very difficult times are non-Covid deaths.

"Some of these people have lost their lives due to the cancellation of critical health services so we need to reopen these services right now," he added.

"We need to be careful and cautious when dealing with Covid but we need balance. We can't close our health service down to the many other patients in serious need."