Having spent a lifetime as a grazier with days spent on a tractor in the blistering hot Australian summer sun, Parkes MP Mark Coulton is paying the price for his self-confessed lack of sun protection when he was younger.
"I've always worn a hat but as a younger person, I spend all those days sitting on a tractor in the sun...sunscreen wasn't heard of. I used to work all summer in a blue singlet and I'm paying the price for it now."
While sun protection is something that's instilled into Australian children, it wasn't always the case, and Mr Coulton's story is one that's replicated by thousands of others.
"My situation is not uncommon, it would be replicated across my electorate by hundreds of people who are a similar age bracket and have had a similar lifestyle to me."
Mr Coulton had a Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) removed, which resulted in a hole the size of a two dollar coin, above his left eye.
"This was just a small lesion above my eye, I wasn't terribly concerned about it but I went to my local GP and they recognised it as a BCC," he said.
"I wouldn't have worried about it so much except it did bleed a little bit. It did get removed...the hole was about the size of a two dollar coin and they had to do quite a bit of alteration of the skin so I've got somewhere between 30 and 40 stitches to cover up that hole."
Fortuitously, as he was getting the BCC removed the doctor found a melanoma in his cheek.
"I hadn't been aware of it, I've got lots of freckles and brown marks on my face as someone of my skin colour and age would have. But the doctor saw it straight away and said; 'What about this?'
"She said, 'I don't like the look of it', so she removed it."
It turns out the melanoma was malignant, and Mr Coulton will travel to Canberra for surgery on Tuesday, where a 14mm incision will be made in his cheek to remove surrounding tissue.
In the COVID pandemic, the logistics of finding a specialist has been challenging. He wasn't able to be referred to Toowoomba, which would be a three hour trip, or Sydney, as would normally be the procedure.
But he did get a health exemption to enter the ACT to see a doctor in the nation's capital.
It will mean a 10 hour trip each way, but it's a trip he's happy to complete.
"I've had to get a health exemption to enter the ACT and we've been very, very careful while driving...keeping away from populated areas, not stopping and just being cautious.
"Even when it's tough with COVID and sometimes hard to get an appointment, just keep those regular checkups because they can save you grief later on."
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