A mum who was diagnosed with cancer after not wearing suncream as a child has released a comic book for kids to raise awareness of skin cancer.
Maggie-May Hughes, 46, was diagnosed with skin cancer after she noticed a waxy lump on her lip just weeks after her 30th birthday whilst studying at university.
The lump steadily grew over three years before the mum of three had it removed and subsequent tests revealed that Maggie-May had basal cell carcinoma.
It is believed that the damage was done to Maggie-May’s skin back when she was a teenager and chose not to wear suncream.
Since having part of her lip removed, author Maggie-May is now fighting to raise awareness of skin cancer and has released a comic book to educate kids.
Maggie-May, who lives in Coalpit Heath, Bristol, said: “If I can prevent one person from experiencing something like this then it is my moral duty to do so.
“I thought for some time about who I should help with my experience. It was a lot to overcome having the scars.
“I thought the best way was to reach kids. Because my skin damage was done by the time I was 15, I want to make a difference to our children’s future wellbeing.”
Maggie-May noticed a small waxy lump about the size of a pin head on her lip just eight weeks after she celebrated her 30th birthday in August 2004.
She went to her GP in March 2008 after noticing the lump had grown over the past three and a half years but the lump was dismissed as benign.
Still concerned, Maggie-May sought private medical help through Bristol based skin clinic Cosmedics and underwent a shave excision in May 2009.
Subsequent tests on the removed lump revealed that it was cancerous and Maggie-May was diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma on 17 June 2009.
She underwent several rounds of photodynamic therapy but eventually had part of her lip surgically removed on Valentine’s Day in 2017 after the cancer continued to grow.
Maggie-May said: “The type of cancer I had does not spread – it is slow growing and locally destructive and you have treatment.
“The cancer was fully removed surgically and I had a quarter of my upper lip removed.
“Since my original diagnosis, I’ve lost a small chunk from the tip of my nose, a healthy slice from my right shoulder, a quarter of my top lip – the cupid’s bow part – and a little piece of my spirit each & every time.
“People did not seem to take the cancer as seriously as others because I did not have radiotherapy or chemotherapy but it did take me to some dark places.
“I’m here to represent anyone who has been made to feel that their skin cancer is less. It’s not less, it’s real, and its effects can be felt long after it’s gone.
“I had a great circle of people who I had to avoid. I couldn’t smile or laugh because the wound would split, so I couldn’t be around funny people as I couldn’t laugh.
“I was not able to drink out of a cup for a while. I’ve never kissed my grandchildren.”
Doctors believe that Maggie-May damaged her skin as a teenager when she chose not to wear suncream but it took years for the damage to show up.
Determined to ensure that other children avoid the same fate, Maggie-May and her team have launched a comic book to raise awareness of skin cancer for kids.
The comic book is an anime style cartoon based on a team called the The Radiation Exposure Defense Squad who travel the universe testing radiation across different planets.
She said: “I thought for some time about who I should help with my experience. It was a lot to overcome having the scars.
“I thought the best way was to reach kids. Because my skin damage was done by the time I was 15, I want to make a difference to our children’s future wellbeing.
“I figured that kids really don’t listen to our advice and I wanted to create something that would engage youngsters and hopefully make using sunscreen daily a cool thing to do and that’s when The Radiation Exposure Defense Squad was born!
“I created and developed the characters and they are purposely from countries around the world with high incidences of skin cancer and sunburn.
“They will be charting the 88 constellations over the next four years and measuring solar radiation output along their way with sun safety as the core message.”
“I want to make getting up and dressed and putting on Factor 50 normal, so hopefully they will not have to go through what I have in the future.
“It takes up to 15 years for the cancer to hit the surface of the skin as it starts deep down in the basal layer.
“It is due to not wearing sun screen as a child. Back then, sun screen was just for holidays and we never really went on holiday when we were children.
“We just would get up on school holidays and just be out all day in the summer playing and that is when most of the damage is done.
“If I can prevent one person from experiencing something like this then it is my moral duty to do so.”
The launch edition of the comic is due out on February 1 and will cost just £1.
Maggie-May is running a giveaway to celebrate the launch and plans to release two editions of the comic every month for the next four years.
All profits will be going to YP Face IT – a programme for youngsters with visible differences, set up by her former university UWE Bristol in conjuction with the University of Bristol.