Apple Isle senior wants to drive melanoma message home
WITH one foot on the throttle of his caravanning dreams and the other on ensuring he continues to survive from his long melanoma journey, Dennis Applebee is ready to hit the road.
The 69-year-old and his wife Pam have sold their seven-days-a-week dry cleaning business in Tasmania's Devonport, and retired.
The first caravan trip is for four weeks as they watch how Dennis's health handles the experience.
There's been no mention of remission. But t can come back at any time. Every time a little bump pops up, Dennis heads straight to the doctor.
"Cover up,” he states emphatically. "Slip, slop, slap; cover up,” he declares again. "I will be covered up and will be looking for shade.
"My message is to enjoy the sun, but don't go out and bake yourselves.”
Pam adds that with the knowledge we have about melanoma, young people should always cover up. "Have a look at the people who have this cancer; most of them die,” she said. "Dennis is very lucky he has survived.”
Just over 20 years ago Dennis was a keen runner, fitting in a 10km run each day. He was a naturally outdoors person. "You think back to 1986,” Dennis said. "There was no such thing as cover yourself and things like that, and I worked outside all my life.
"Then a mole popped up on the left-hand side of my forehead, near the temple, and I thought what the hell is this? I wasn't feeling a bit bright. Me boss bought me home from Shipton where I was working for the Water Board.” Dennis went straight to his doctor, and "that's where it all started”, Dennis recounts.
A surgeon removed the mole, but testing revealed it was a melanoma. "He said to us; get your life in order, you have only six months to live,” Dennis said. During that time he really struggled with a lack of knowledge around melanoma.
Only six months later Dennis noticed a lump near his left ear, right near his lymph glands. The melanoma was back. He had to undergo surgery to remove the affected lymph glands as well as a shoulder direction.
Following this Dennis had to undergo an intensive 12 months of chemotherapy to treat the melanoma. "They threw everything at me,” he said.
Deniis and Pam have two sons and 10 grandkids, and he just wants to enjoy life more and with them. Dennis said they have heard their grandfather's message about taking care of their skin.
The couple plan to be back from caravanning in time for Melanoma March. He will again throw his support behind the Devonport Lions club march and fundraiser.
"I have a big scar down the side of my neck,” Dennis said. "A lot of people see it and ask what happened there. That's when I start telling them.
"I often start off by saying, 'that's where they cut off me bad head' as Tasmanians have two heads,” he jokes. "It really starts the conversation.”
For more information, go to melanomamarch.org.au.