Aucklander Amanda Lockyer was just 41 years old, with two young children, when she noticed a strange ‘smudge’ on the sole of her right foot.
“I was aware of melanoma but never for one second did I think my smudge was cancer. I first noticed it in January 2016 – it was sore, as if I had stood on something. It was a rusty-coloured, smooth smudge, not instantly recognisable as a mole or freckle. I remember considering perhaps I had stood on an oyster shell at the beach and some had broken off in my foot (as happened often as a child). Thinking that foreign material was stuck in it, I took to my foot with a needle to try and get whatever it was out.
“I didn’t find any foreign material, but it was still sore and not healing. I went to my GP certain at that stage that I had stood on something. I literally never thought a melanoma could look like that, or that it would end up hurting so much. My GP at the time was devastated to miss it.
“I come from the generation where women were raised to be capable, strong and resilient and just get on with it. Also being a Mum it’s common practice to put others’ needs ahead of your own. I was busy with kids and life; I’d just changed careers from being a lawyer to starting Inspire by Amanda, a personal training and bootcamp business which was thriving. I assumed my foot would heal naturally and I just didn’t have the time to focus on it.
“Throughout 2016 my foot really bothered me, being extremely painful at times. I remember going away for a weekend with my husband and not actually being able to walk properly with my foot being so painful. It was starting to look like something was eating my flesh by this point. My husband nagged me to go back again to the doctor but as I’d had it checked out by ultrasound and x-ray, I put it down to being so busy on my feet all day and it not having time to properly heal. I was fit and healthy, and had a “she’ll be right” attitude.
“However, over the Christmas holidays when I was up north with family, I was such a mess with the pain that I went to a local doctor on Saturday. The doctor took one look at my foot and said ‘that’s skin cancer, and you need a biopsy urgently’.
“I still don’t think it registered as it was so unlike what I thought a melanoma could look like. I went to a specialist when I got back to Auckland who performed a punch biopsy, and I was absolutely shocked when the results came back as invasive melanoma.
“I required two surgeries in February 2017. The first was to remove the cancer together with a 1cm clearance zone around it which left a really sizeable hole in the sole of my foot. Due to the size of the hole they weren’t able to do a skin graft immediately, a special suction pump dressing was used to decrease the size of the hole. Two weeks later they performed the second surgery: a full thickness skin graft to plug the hole. They used the same foot (my right foot) for the skin graft so now there were two wound sites.
“I then began the slow journey of healing. I was literally off my foot for 11 weeks – I missed my children’s entire school term. My local community was absolutely amazing. A friend arranged a meal roster, playdates and school drop offs and pick ups were arranged for my kids. My mum also came down from Omaha for a few weeks to assist my husband and help me as I needed assistance to shower, and I just couldn’t really function properly or look after my family.
“I am so incredibly thankful that they caught the cancer in time, and it hadn’t spread. “I grew up in the sun, and definitely got my share of sunburn. The sunburn I got as a teenager contributed to me developing melanoma as an adult. My message to young people is that you are not invincible: cover up, use sunscreen, reapply often, and know that what you do now can really impact you when you are older.