Simon McLean’s beloved father Colin died of melanoma four years ago at the age of 62. He is planning on running the ASB marathon at the end of the year to fundraise for Melanoma New Zealand, in memory of his dad.
“I really want to do something to support the work Melanoma New Zealand does to raise awareness of the symptoms of melanoma so this awful cancer is found early when it can be treated and potentially cured.”
Simon says, “Dad had an awful lesion on his leg and refused to go to the doctor for a long time. My mum gave up telling him to get it seen to and then one day out of the blue he called her on the phone to say he had gone to the Medical Centre and they were in the process of cutting it out. They removed a golf ball size lump.
“He went away overseas a couple of days later and mum received a phone call to say that he needed to see our family doctor as soon as he came back. The histology had come back as stage 4 metastatic melanoma.
“It was just devastating, if he had only gone to the doctor earlier, he might still be with us. It was pretty typical of him through, he had a real kiwi ‘she’ll be right’ attitude, only it wasn’t. Dad battled melanoma for seven years, before passing away when I was 25.
“I am a boat builder and was overseas in Bermuda with one of the America’s Cup teams when he died. Dad was an electrical engineer, and he was in Auckland due to speak at a conference as the keynote speaker. He rang my mum and said he wasn’t feeling too good, and he called an ambulance to collect him from the hotel and take him to the hospital.
“When he got to the hospital, my mum was told he had two brain tumours as a result of the melanoma, and that the end was near. Our family quickly began gathering, and I immediately jumped on a plane to come home. Unfortunately, he died while I was travelling back, and I got the news when I landed in the US in transit to Auckland. It was a rough flight home.
“The impact on our whole family has been huge. My wife Kim gave birth to our first child, Poppy, on ANZAC Day this year, and it really bought it home to me that dad will never meet her.
He was taken just too young, and he and our family are missing out on so much.
“Dad was really into the outdoors lifestyle, with sailing and boating. We had a lifestyle property when I was growing up, and he was always outside in the sun gardening or on the water. He wasn’t that focussed on being SunSmart.
“One person being careless in the sun doesn’t only affect that person. The effects of a melanoma diagnosis on a family, community, and workplace are ongoing. From my own experience, the hardest part is that as time goes on people further away from a lost loved one move on with their lives, but to the family, the pain is just always there. ”
“Still to this moment not a day goes by where I don’t think about Dad, all that he was, all that he did, and all that he could have done.
“Melanoma can happen to anyone, nobody is immune. I hear too many people saying ‘I tan or I don’t burn’ but they are doing huge damage to their skin without realising it. I really want to encourage people to be aware of the risks of melanoma and to get any changes to their skin checked out immediately. Don’t wait, it could mean the difference between life and death.
“Running helps me, and I am determined to run the ASB Marathon at the end of the year, if it goes ahead. I’ve set up my fundraising page on Everyday Hero called Runover Melanoma and am busy training while in lockdown through running virtual half marathons.
“This involved running 21kms within 2.5kms of home during lockdown, which basically meant I was doing loops around our neighbourhood – it was pretty tough as there are a lot of hills around our area! I recently completed a virtual half in 1 hour 39 mins.
“Fundraising through my running is my way of helping spread the word about this awful disease, in the hope that I can help save someone else’s life.”