Chandrika Gibson on day one of cervicofacial flap surgery (left) and six weeks post surgery (right)
A 46-year-old Banksia Grove mother has bravely allowed Gatecrasher advertising agency to model a prosthetic version of her major facial surgical wounds from skin cancer treatment as part of our graphic new SunSmart campaign to educate people about the importance of sun protection when UV (ultraviolet radiation) levels reach 3 or above.
Chandrika Gibson said she was proud to be involved with the campaign, Two sides of the sun, and able to use her experience to advocate on the importance of sun protection and UV levels.
“I had my first skin cancer removed by a GP when I was 19,” Ms Gibson said.
“It was just a small red lesion on my arm that was never biopsied or tested so I don’t know if that was a basal cell carcinoma (BCC), however it’s what started my 27-year skin cancer journey which I attribute to having fair skin and UV exposure from living in Western Australia.
“I grew up on a farm in Capel, and while we were careful with day-to-day sun protection like wearing hats and not working in the middle of the day, I think I got a lot of sun exposure from things like covering myself in baby oil before swimming lessons at the beach to ward off jellyfish, agriculture shows, and sun exposure at school, especially sports days.
“From that first lesion, I had about 30 separate BCC’s on my face, shoulders and back removed. Then when I was 30 years old, my partner spotted an unusual looking mole on my back that had changed which turned out to be melanoma.”
While there has been no recurrence of melanoma for Ms Gibson, in 2018 she had a ‘nest’ of BCC’s on her right check which required surgery called cervicofacial flap, the scars of which are depicted in the television advertisement. In addition, she has since had surgery to remove lesions from the tip of her nose and right eyebrow.
The campaign demonstrates that there are two sides to the sun; the life-giving warm side and a destructive side which can lead to cell damage and skin cancer. The aim of the campaign is to educate West Australians that it is UV, not hot weather, that causes skin damage.
“I sincerely hope this campaign motivates people to use multiple sun protection strategies during their outdoor activities when UV levels reach 3 or above,” Ms Gibson said.
“Because when you look visibly different you attract attention, and it’s not a pleasant thing.”
Our Cancer Prevention and Research Director, Melissa Ledger, said without increased funding, this will be the last time we will see SunSmart ads on TV.
“For the last 20 summers we have seen SunSmart campaigns on our TV screens, so to think this will be the last year is a big concern,” Ms Ledger said.
“WA still has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world, and it is almost entirely preventable. We can’t be complacent; we need to see a coordinated and comprehensive approach to reducing over exposure to UV. With a $168 million price tag for skin cancer treatment in WA alone, now is the time for action.
“We can’t afford to ignore skin cancer; we are asking the WA Government to invest $2.2 million a year in skin cancer prevention.
“At less than two per cent of the cost of treatment, we can create and deliver innovative campaigns and programs to prevent skin cancer from early childhood onwards. We need skin cancer to be given the priority it deserves.”
The campaign will air across Western Australia on television, radio and online until 27 February 2022.