Beyond the scars: 'I had 70-odd stitches in my head'
WHEN Nicole Geisler was 19, a friendly gibe from a family member lead to a lifesaving trip to the doctor.
"My sister, Carla, spotted a mole on my arm and like all nice sisters she said it was ugly," she said.
"Mum booked me in for a doctor's appointment and it ended up being a stage 2 melanoma."
Nicole said the unnerving part was going for a follow up appointment three months later and learning a new mole had popped up on her head and had already turned to a stage 2 melanoma.
"Within three months I already had a second stage 2 melanoma, it was pretty scary."
"I had 70 odd stitches in my head.
"They had to cut a fair bit out and it's across my forehead and runs up past my hair line."
Nicole was four when her grandmother died from melanoma and the significance of her situation still had not sunk in.
"At the time I was only 19 so I didn't think to much about it, now I look back and realise how scary it really was," she said.
"I was lucky my sister told me to go and get checked - if I had of waited a couple of months it could have been in my blood and would have been a lot worse than what it was.
"Emotionally, it probably affected my dad and brother the most. The whole family goes and gets regular check-ups now."
Nicole's brother, Adrian Young, said when he was first told about Nicole's melanoma, he found it hard to comprehend.
"It was horrifying. Being the older brother, I took some responsibility on myself," he said.
"Why did I not make her put a hat on or put suncream on?
"Our grandmother died of melanoma, so it was pretty close to home.
"Her health and safety were paramount in everyone's thoughts and we just tried to support her as much as we could.
Life beyond the scars
"When I saw the scar on her head initially, I just burst into tears and it makes me upset now because it's very confronting, especially seeing that sort of damage done to your sibling.
"Obviously, it's healed well but I thought at the time with how severe it was that it was going to affect her life moving forward."
Adrian said even with the current publicity now around melanoma, he thought people did not understand the effect it could have long term.
"From my point of view at that time, I think myself and my family were educated more about it.
"We realised the risk that was going to be there for Nicole in the future potentially and then that was shown when she had to have the second one cut out."
In 2019, Nicole organised the first Melanoma March in Mackay. Enlisting her brother Adrian's help, they set about doing their bit to help create awareness of melanoma.
"Melanoma is a big thing in Mackay, and I don't think it's taken that seriously," she said.
The Federal Government's Cancer Australia website says an estimated 15,691 new cases of melanoma skin cancer will be diagnosed in Australia (9166 males and 6525 females) in 2020.
"It's extremely sad to hear some of the stories of how people have been affected by melanoma," she said.
"From young people to their parents, you don't expect it to happen from melanoma.
"When I was 19, when someone said they had skin cancer you just thought you'd get it cut out and it was fine, you didn't think people could actually pass away from it, but it is a lot more serious than what people think.
"And I think (the march) brings the cause to the front, it's great to see so many come along and support it," she said
Mr Young said the march had a profound effect on him and urged everyone to be sun smart.
"From my perspective I was incredibly proud to see how much Nicole got involved with it and how passionate she was about educating people on melanoma and getting people to take part in the event." he said.
"Seeing it on the day and hearing stories of other people who had been affected by melanoma was mind boggling.
"Up until that point I wasn't as understanding as what I am now, sometimes trauma in your life can really open your eyes."
Nicole, now 27, is expecting her first child in August and her physical scars have almost disappeared.
"I don't think they expected it to look as good as it did. It's only when I get cranky, I get a lump where the scar ends. My partner Jordan knows when to stay away from me," she laughed.
"I've already bought multiple hats and there will be plenty of sunscreen and long sleeves. Growing up I was always outside, and I want same for my child. I will make sure he's sun safe."