MELANOMA:  John Middleton during his June Simpson Desert adventure. He took his hat off briefly for the photo, but the rest of his skin now remains safely protected from the harsh UV.
MELANOMA: John Middleton during his June Simpson Desert adventure. He took his hat off briefly for the photo, but the rest of his skin now remains safely protected from the harsh UV. RPA

Carefree childhood? Moment in sun can kill warns adventurer

LIVING a carefree life outdoors with not a care in world, almost cost John Middleton his life when at about age 52 a suspicious mole started to develop on his back.

Luckily, John and his wife, Sue, went straight to the doctor to have it checked. "She told me it wasn't a good-looking thing," John said. "It was changing shape and colour.

"I certainly knew my years in the sun could be an issue. That's why I went early on to have it looked at."

He was diagnosed with an advanced or Stage IV melanoma and quickly admitted for surgery.

As a child John loved his surfing, hiking, water skiing and lots of motorbiking. In the 60s and 70s, Australians hit the outdoors as much as possible with no concern about what damage could be happening to their skin. John was no different.

Even in his 30s and 40s nothing changed. "Once you grow up in that environment, that becomes the norm; it's very hard to readjust and change your outlook," John said.

John acknowledged he had seen and heard the various awareness messages put out into the community by organisations such as Melanoma Institute Australia, but it wasn't until his melanoma diagnosis that he significantly readjusted his approach to his outdoor activities.

He now keeps to a rule of full skin coverage while outdoors except for the occasional moments in the sun to soak in the Vitamin D when he will allow some of his skin exposure to UV. "I think it's an important part of the message; it's not a 100 per cent block-out as that can also have health issues," John said.

John is still participating in a MIA research project which is being conducted in conjunction with the USA's John Wayne Cancer Institute. All his lymph nodes in his left armpit have been removed while other participants have had only their infected ones removed. While the project continues John is receiving a full body check-up every six months. Once it's completed he will return to having his check-up done by his GP.

John is determined to get on with life and enjoy it, and that is exactly what he is doing. Last June the resort manager for the bushland Eagle View Resort in northern NSW, led a group of friends through the Simpson Desert, using motorcycles and 4WD vehicles.

"I have been given a bit of a lifeline and I intend enjoying it," John said.


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