Blokes, listen up! Melanoma can strike anyone - it got me
MELANOMA patient Peter Robinson has issued a word of serious advice to other men to look after themselves better, cover up and stop being man-proud.
The 64-year-old is recovering from left-breast mastectomy and lymph node surgery to treat an aggressive melanoma.
He was your typical Aussie kid and young adult; out in the sun most of year, playing in the surf and on the sand with no sunscreen in sight, no hats and no idea of what skin damage was occurring to blue-eyed, freckly boy.
What was a small childhood freckle just below his left nipple, over the years grew into the size of a fifty-cent coin.
"I probably looked at it every day, but I didn't see it," Peter said.
"Living in the UK, I was working 15 hour days and I had no time to think about myself.
"That miniscule time of the day when I showered, I didn't look."
It wasn't until Peter got back to his home in Nelson Bay on the north coast of New South Wales that reality struck.
He went to the doctor because of bronchitis.
As the doctor went to put the stethoscope on his chest, her "jaw dropped" as she inspected the flat, white and brown and black growth on his left breast.
The subsequent biopsy revealed a melanoma of such significant depth its removal was mandatory, along with two lymph nodes.
Peter said it was a "no brainer" when he chose to have the operation in January 2016.
"It was almost the same as a woman would experience," he said.
"They took the entire nipple and the rest of the breast all the way back to the armpit."
One of the lymph nodes was found to have a few cancer cells in it, so Peter made the second big decision to have the rest of the lymph nodes removed in March 2016.
Since being diagnosed Peter has tapped into the support services at the Melanoma Clinic at Newcastle's Mater Hospital, but he hasn't reached out to any support groups.
"When it becomes individualised, you focus on your own lot and with the open-door policy at the Melanoma unit where you can talk to anyone at any time, I can't see the need to join groups where people may want to wallow in their own misery," Peter said.
"I want to keep positive about it and keep a positive view of life."
To manage his health Peter has modified his diet and lost weight, and is following a program of light exercise including walking and occasional swimming, plus self-massage of the arm area to reduce the incidence of lymphoedema.
"I override any discomfort I have from the operation scars and mentally I don't engage with it, I just get on with life," Peter added.
His advice to other men is to cover up instead of trying to be a golden adonises, take all the advice from professionals that handle cancer issues daily, change your diet and lose weight, get an annual skin check, look after yourself, and stop being man proud.
In January 2017, at his quarterly check-up, Peter was told by a specialist he has a 20% chance of another cancer occurring somewhere in this body.
"Because there is no instruction book with this, I am going to sit down with a clinical psychologist about how to manage all of this in my mind from here on," Peter said.