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Cancer survivor tipped off by stranger

Raising awareness now priority

ALEXIA JOHNSTON
Last updated 05:00 25/10/2011
larsen
JOHN BISSET/Fairfax NZ
WARNING SIGNS: Hayley Larsen has had skin cancer removed from her nose after a stranger advised her to get a blemish checked.

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A cancer survivor's words of advice to Hayley Larsen have potentially saved her life.

The Ballantynes Timaru manager had basal cell carcinoma, a type of skin cancer, removed from her nose after a man visiting the store advised her to get it checked immediately.

Mrs Larsen said she was grateful to him for speaking up.

"In another six months, if I had not got it (checked), it would have been a whole other kettle of fish for me."

She said she was aware that her nose was often red and when she moisturised, it would sometimes bleed, but she was not aware how serious the underlying cause was.

Mrs Larsen said the customer, who has declined to be named, made the observation in January. She went to a specialist and has since had a 12x9mm section of her nose removed and the area grafted with tissue from the side of her face.

She believes the damage was caused in her late teens to early 20s when she worked in the horticultural industry, in Australia and New Zealand. Her days were spent outdoors, hours at a time, with little protection from the sun.

Now she shares her knowledge of skin cancer and warns others of the dangers.

"It's become a discussion point (in the shop). People will say what do you think about this and lots of them have said 'I'm going to get something done now'."

Although Mrs Larsen comes from a generation of sun-worshippers who smothered themselves in baby oil before going out in the sun, she has never been one of them.

Mrs Larsen, who is not the only skin cancer survivor working at Ballantynes, said raising awareness was now her priority.

At least two other Ballantynes staff have their own survival story to tell after both had cancerous moles and freckles removed.

Sales assistant Chrissy Coulter discovered she had skin cancer on her face after she changed doctors.

"I had a freckle and he said `has anybody seen that'."

She said the freckle had grown over time, but she never thought anything of it until the doctor showed concern.

Colleague Noeline MacLean also had melanoma removed from the base of her foot after her friend noticed a strange spot.

She has since had 36 moles removed.

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- The Timaru Herald

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