A woman who was diagnosed with skin cancer is launching a new organisation in the hope of saving lives.
Kerry Rafferty has launched MelanomaMe to help people take steps to prevent skin cancer and support those who have been diagnosed with the condition - just as she was.
The 39-year-old, from Washington, was told she had developed it back in August 2015, when a specialist nurse spotted a suspicious mole on her back.
She had to have a procedure - a wide local excision (WLE) - to have it removed as well as a lymph node biopsy to ensure it had not spread.
Kerry, who is being helped by fellow director Elaine Taylor and a team of seven volunteers so far, decided to set up the group after previously working as a counsellor and in hypnotherapy.
She said: “We’re trying to get the word out there to tell people to look after their skin.
We’re trying to get the word out there to tell people to look after their skin.Kerry Rafferty
“Because I was personally diagnosed with melanoma, I want to spread the message about how they can help themselves.
“Although I had endured the horrendous stress and anxiety of waiting months for my biopsy then the results, the diagnosis came as a relief initially.
“This was because I finally knew what I was dealing with, it was only skin cancer after all.
“A few days later it hit me and nothing could have prepared me for the impact it had on my mental health over the following year.
“I was under a lot of pressure to return to work not long after my WLE, because to others I was now ‘cured.’
“In my colleagues’ words ‘It’s just a scratch’
“Nobody could imagine the anxiety I felt at a cancer diagnosis and what that meant for my future.
“I was fearful of the cancer recurring as well as developing another primary melanoma.
“My relationships suffered because I felt that no one understood.
“I was insecure and in a constant state of anxiety, to never hear the word ‘all clear’ constantly played on my mind.
“I lost a part of me that I will never get back, but gained a strength to fight against Melanoma and help people to never feel as lonely or isolated as what I did.”
Kerry thanked skin cancer specialist nurse Carol Heslehurst, who spotted her cancerous mole and ensured she underwent further tests which led to a diagnosis.
The organisation, which has been set up as a community interest company, is based in Hendon and is also working in the Victoria Road health practice in Washington.
It has also won a series of contracts to help educate people about skin cancer and its impact and run activities and treatments for those who are dealing with the cancer.
Part of its work will look at helping patients and carers with claiming benefits or raising finances to support them while they are unable to work and offer group sessions.
They will also accompany them to hospital, government appointments and disputes to offer support and talk them through forms for benefits or insurance.
A launch event will be held at the MelanomaMe base at SES The Co-op Centre in White House Road, on Saturday, July 8, from noon to 4pm.
More details about the organisation can be found via www.melanoma-me.org.uk searching for MelanomaMe on Facebook and on Twitter via @MelanomaMe17.
Information about melanoma can also be found through http://www.macmillan.org.uk/information-and-support/melanoma/understanding-cancer