When I was born in April 1997, the doctors and nurses had no idea what the strange black mark on my leg was. My parents were referred to a plastic surgeon at East Grinstead Hospital, who also didn’t know what it was. He very abruptly said “that’s cancerous, her leg needs to come off”. I can’t imagine how scary this must have been for my Mum and Dad.
At the time, new parents were given what was called a ‘bounty box’, which contained things like nappies and rusks, and also a book about looking after babies. The book contained contact information of all the organisations you could ever need for a child, and one of them was for the very newly formed Caring Matters Now.
Mum wrote to Caring Matters Now, who passed her letter on to Dr Atherton, and he invited us to visit him at his clinic. He reassured my parents that there was no medical need for my CMN to be removed, but that if my parents wanted to treat the cosmetic appearance of my CMN then his recommendation was that I have CO2 and ruby laser treatment. Because of the location of my CMN, it wouldn’t have been possible to cut my CMN out and skin graft normal skin on top without severely hampering my ability to walk. Seeing as he was the expert, my parents said yes to the laser treatment.
By the time the operation organised, I was 18 months old. Even in that time, my CMN had lightened considerably – this second picture was taken a couple of days before the operation! (September 1998) My parents were told that when I came out, I would just have a light bandage. But after the operation, my leg was covered in thick bandages from hip to ankle. I had to stay in hospital overnight and my Mum stayed with me.