Grieving sister's plea

AS NSW prepares for a warmer than average summer, Kiama's Tennille Shelley has warned of the effects of melanoma.

Ms Shelley's older sister, Carrine Weston, died a year ago, aged just 40.

Ms Weston grew up in Kiama and worked as a hairdresser until she sold her half of the business to focus on her three children.

A keen runner, she also competed in four marathons and an ultra-marathon.

But the discovery of a pink, pea-sized mole on her shoulder started a battle with cancer, which spread to her groin and throughout her body.

Ms Shelley supported her sister by taking her to appointments and looking out for her children.

"She is my big sister and I was so used to her looking after me," she said.

"It was the most difficult thing I have had to do to see someone so close suffer. I did all I could but I couldn't fix her."

The sisters joined a melanoma support group in Sydney to help them through the cancer experience, and in 2009 succeeded in convincing Melanoma Institute of Australia community co-ordinator Jay Allen to create the Illawarra Melanoma Support Group.

Ms Shelley, who now runs the group with friend Karen Ryan, said she had gained a lot from the organisation.

"Just being supported by others through the group and to have them understand what you're going through," she said.

According to the NSW Central Cancer Registry, Kiama recorded the second-highest rate of melanoma per 100,000 people out of the four Illawarra-Shoalhaven local government areas between 2004 and 2008.

In Kiama, 72 people were diagnosed during that period.

Ms Shelley said it was crucial for people to monitor their skin for changes.

"Even if those moles don't get much sun exposure, they should have a professional check them."

Australia has the highest rates of melanoma in the world with one in 13 males and one in 24 females expected to develop the condition by the age of 85.

A Cancer Council spokesman said protection was easy.

"Stay in the shade, slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen, slap on a hat, wear sunglasses and avoid the sun during the high UV times of 10am to 3pm," he said.

"A melanoma is likely to have a similar appearance to a mole but unlike a mole, a melanoma will usually grow larger and become more irregular in shape and colour or bleed."

A concert was held last Friday to raise money for the Genome Project in which scientists hope to come up with a treatment or cure for advanced melanoma within five years. Some of Mrs Weston's tumours will be used as part of the research in the hope doctors will be able to tailor patients' treatment to the genetic nature of their tumours in the future.

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