A mum-of-three who was diagnosed with stage four cancer has warned people of the dangers of using sun beds.
Tazmyn Patterson was 23-years-old when she was referred to have a mole on her neck examined, which turned out to be a malignant melanoma – skin cancer.
Doctors told her that it was likely caused by her sun bed use and she underwent surgery to have the melanoma cells removed.
In May of this year, she was told her cancer had returned for a third time and that it was at a stage four diagnosis.
Tazmyn, now 30 who lives in East Belfast with husband Jordan, 27, and daughters Dillyn, 10, Saylor, seven, and son Boss, 19 months, said she wished she could go back in time and tell herself that “no tan is worth what I’ve gone through”.
She has shared her story in the hopes of encouraging others to get their moles checked and to avoid using sunbeds.
Speaking to The Sun, she said she had started using sunbeds as a teenager “ironically” believing that she would look healthier with a tan.
When she was first diagnosed in her early 20s, Tazmyn didn’t think much of it and described herself as being “blasé” about the matter, “telling everyone it would be cut away and I’d be fine”.
For the next five years, she would have regular skin and mole checks and stayed away from sunbeds as directed.
A month into her marriage in 2019, she felt a hard lump in her neck and “froze with terror”. An ultrasound and biopsy revealed she had melanoma in her lymph nodes, meaning she was at stage 3.
She was “devastated” to hear of this second diagnosis, even more so because she was 16 weeks pregnant with her third child and had learned that melanoma can pass through the placenta.
After undergoing surgery for eight hours to remove the lymph nodes, tests revealed that Tazmyn’s cancer was spreading quickly and doctors advised her to deliver her child prematurely.
Her third child, Boss, was born at 30 weeks and despite almost dying from a pulmonary haemorrhage, thankfully pulled through and was discharged at 10 weeks old, just before the first lockdown.
But Tazmyn was left vulnerable with serious side effects from the preventative medicine, at some point even developing sepsis, and spent much of 2020 in and out of hospital.
It was during this time where she spent much of her time regretting having spent so much of her youth on sun beds.
She said: “My mental health plummeted and I was terrified the cancer would return. I’d scroll through old photos of myself with a mahogany tan and couldn’t believe how silly I’d been.”
A few months later, in April 2021, she was called for an emergency MRI after a CT scan flagged something urgent – she knew her cancer had returned again.
In early May, she received the news that her melanoma was back in her lungs, giving her a stage four diagnosis.
She said: “My cancer is now stage 4, and only 30% of people at this stage of melanoma survive for five years or more. I won’t give up, and have been having immunotherapy to fight it. My daughters Dillyn and Saylor know I’m sick, but believe doctors will make me better, while Boss is thankfully oblivious.”
Last month, Tazmyn celebrated her 30th birthday with friends and family. She said she believed in “seizing any opportunity to enjoy life”.
“Since I was first diagnosed, I’ve not been on a sunbed, I always wear SPF50 and share my journey on social media to raise awareness. I have to believe I’ll see my children grow up. If you don’t have hope, you don’t have anything,” she said.