“It never crossed my mind that I’d get skin cancer. The only cream we knew about growing up was the possibility of an ice cream on the weekend. It was never even a though in my head until it happened” Jim Sheehan
Growing up in Cork in the early 60’s, being SunSmart wasn’t at the top of Jim’s priority list. When he was young, he loved to spend time outdoors, working for some of the local farmers in his area, and when he grew up and got married, he would spend hours outside tending to his garden.
“I had elephant skin – despite the fact that I have red hair and pale skin, it never bothered me being out in the sun or at matches where I would inevitably get burnt because I didn’t ever think I was going to get sick. And in reality, I wasn’t ever actually “sick”.
Over the years, his wife or one of his children would remark about some marks they noticed on his arms and back, and he always brushed them off, saying that he would get to the doctors eventually. Then, one day on the golf course, a friend of his he noticed the mole on his arm and said that perhaps he should get it seen to.
“Around that time, it must have been 2010, I actually had a dream about a friend of mine that had passed away from skin cancer. I could see in my dream the mole on his back that eventually killed him and that with the comments from my family and my golf buddy, it was the nudge I needed to go to the GP.”
Jim hadn’t been to the doctor for two years before he went in to see his GP about the moles on his skin. The GP took one look at the moles and knew they weren’t right so quickly referred Jim on to a skin specialist. Within two days, Jim had an appointment.
“The specialist removed the two moles straight away but let me know that I would be hearing from him again. I got the news that the tests had come back as malignant cancer from my GP. He rang me on his own personal mobile so I should have known it wasn’t good news.”
Jim went into hospital a few days later and his diagnosis was explained to him.
“Myself and my good wife sat and they told us that I had a 50/50 chance of survival and that the only thing to be done would be surgery. We didn’t have all the options there is now back then so I had the moles removed and then later went back in to have the lymphs under my right arm removed as the cancer had spread. But all in all, I was very lucky.”
Jim told no one but his immediate family that he has cancer, and that was his way of coping. Now ten years on, he is sharing his story to help others come to terms with the dangers of the Irish sun.
“I’ve changed my habits and now I just stick to the SunSmart code. Whether I’m on the golf course or in the garden, I make sure I have sunscreen on, I’m wearing my wide brimmed hat and sunglasses as well as my protective clothes. I even wear golf gloves now to protect my hands from the sun!”