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Friday 14 December 2018

'I'll never lie in the sun again', says nurse who battled cancer - twice

Anne Gribben battled cancer
Anne Gribben battled cancer

A retired Glasnevin nurse who has twice battled skin cancer has warned people not to lie in the sun for long periods.

Anne Gribben, who lived in Saudi Arabia for a number of years, was a self-confessed sun-worshipper before she was diagnosed with melanoma.

However, two cancer scares have radically changed her life. She no longer sunbathes and covers up in hot weather.

"I did like the sun," said Ms Gribben, who got badly burned when she was a teenager.

"Looking back, they say most people get melanoma because they got a bad burn.

"When I was 19, I went on my first sun holiday and I got a bad burn. It went on for two weeks.

"I loved sunbathing. I had been warned, but I never thought I'd get skin cancer. No one does."

When a red pimple appeared on Ms Gribben's thigh, she assumed it was rash.

"I remember trying to squeeze it, but I couldn't get anything out. Then I thought it was two little pimples in one. It was getting bigger every day after six months," she said.

"It looked a little like eczema lumps, and I thought it would be removed and then it would be gone.

"They took a biopsy and it came back positive. I never thought of melanoma because it wasn't dark brown. If it was, I would have acted a little quicker.

"I was numb, I was just dumbstruck. I think I went around floating in a daze of self-pity.

"I was referred to an oncologist and a plastic surgeon to remove it.

"It had gone to the lymph nodes, so that made it metastatic, so the lymph nodes had to be removed as well."

Follow-up scans over the next few years showed that her melanoma had gone, but in 2013, another one, about the size of a pea, appeared on her groin.

"It was biopsied, and found to be nothing. But it came up again in 2015."

Operating

A CT scan showed that the cancer had returned to the lymph nodes in the groin area, the pelvic area and the aorta.

"I'd been seen in January and there was nothing there, then in February, you're on the operating table," she said.

"I had vascular surgery, and it reduces you to nothing. I could hardly walk after it."

After she had recovered from her surgery, Ms Gribben joined more than 900 patients in a trial to compare the effects of different drugs over the course of a year.

She finished the trial in September 2016. Follow-up scans have shown her to be clear of cancer.

Now, Ms Gribben's advice to fair-skinned Irish people is to stay out of the sun.

"Use the fake tan instead, it's brilliant. Even if you're wearing your factors you're still getting burned. Freckles are actually sun damage marks."

"I miss the sun, but giving up sunbathing has its advantages," she added.

"Before, I'd be so engrossed in getting a tan that I'd miss how beautiful the world can look on a sunny day. It opens your eyes to a whole lot more.

"I still go for a drive, I go for a walk, but now don't sit out in the sun."

Ms Gribben has thanked her multi-disciplinary team for helping her.

"My family and nursing colleagues all gave great support after surgery. I want to thank them all," she said.

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