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I have the same cancer as Sarah Ferguson – here's how I stay positive

Tracey Fleming was diagnosed with Melanoma in 2015. Here she shares how she stays upbeat during trying times

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As an ex-nurse, I always believed cancer would never affect me. But in 2015 I realised I'd been wrong when a mole got itchier and darker until my family forced me to see a GP.

As soon as I walked into his office, I knew I should have gone sooner. Two weeks later, the mole was removed and when I went for my results I immediately knew it was bad news because there was a nurse in the room.

I was diagnosed with Stage 2B Melanoma and booked into Guys & St. Thomas Hospital to have it removed. I'd done my training there and felt reassured going back, albeit on the other side of the screen.

Couple smiling in front of a sunset
Tracey never expected to be diagnosed with cancer

I was very naive to think that the surgery would be the end of it. This was far from the case. Within weeks the cancer had spread to my right breast and by the time I went for the post-surgery follow-up, I needed another operation to remove the cancer, which was stage 3, by this point.

To lighten the mood I named my cancer Marge, because it spread easily, and I tried to maintain a positive attitude.

Staying positive

I went through so many emotions following my diagnosis, ranging from sadness that I might not see my granddaughter Scarlett and grandson Woody grow up, to complete distress over how my husband would cope without me.

Lady holding a basket of vegetables
Tracey keeps busy and remains focussed

I felt desperation that our daughters may not have their mum, followed by intense anger. I was so angry that this had happened to me and it was likely my own fault.

Not only had I been a prolific sunbather in my younger years, I'd also gotten burnt on sunbeds in the early 80s.

But I also felt determined. I had no plans to give up. I had so much I wanted to do and achieve.

READ: A shock diagnosis changed my entire outlook on life – here's what happened 

It became easier to be positive as months passed. I was clear for 20 months, but after a routine PET scan, I learned the Marge was back in both breasts.

I started immunotherapy at the end of 2017, and following this and more surgery, I was clear of Melanoma for four years. It only entered my head every six months when I went for my routine PET and brain MRI. The scanxiety between scans and results has got worse over the eight years since I was first diagnosed, though.

Family selfie
Tracey's girls and husband are a constant support

Staying focused

When it wasn't possible to stay positive, I concentrated on staying focused instead. I focused on what needed to be done and concentrated on getting over the hurdle I was facing.

READ: How my breast cancer diagnosis took me on the path to unexpected happiness 

Ask questions

Having faith in your team of doctors and nurses is crucial, but if you aren't sure about something, ask! Whatever you do, do not Google. The best people to turn to are others going through similar situations.

I joined the Macmillan Melanoma forum online and connected with a lady called Sandra, who became my Melanomamate!

selfie of two ladies smiling
Sandra and Tracey are a great support to eachother

We were diagnosed around the same time and we clicked big time. She saw photos of my boobs post-op via WhatsApp before I'd even met her in person. We speak the same language and I think of her as my safety net.

Feeling grateful

I try to remember there is always somebody in a worse position than yourself. I consider myself very lucky that Marge was picked up when she was and that I was diagnosed when research into Melanoma was at a turning point.

DISCOVER: How to practice gratitude for a happier life: an expert's guide 

I'm lucky to have our NHS and the amazing care from them and I'm so grateful to my family for their sense of humour. We have cried with laughter and they take the mick out of me whenever they can.

If Marge rears her head again, and it's likely she will, I just have to pull up my big girl pants and go with it!

For support with Melanoma, call the Macmillan Support Line for free on 0808 808 00 00

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