Aussie mum-of-three thought she had a pimple on her face. But it was actually melanoma

Aussie mum-of-three thought she had a pimple on her face. But it was actually melanoma
  • PublishedMarch 26, 2024

‘The thought of leaving my kids without a mum devastated me.’

Catherine Smartt thought she had a pimple on her face — but it turned out to be the most dangerous type of skin cancer.

The mum-of-three, from Geelong, would regularly get her skin checked but, as she would find out, not regularly enough.

Last year, when a strange pimple showed up on her cheek, the pregnant 40-year-old at first didn’t think much of it.

“It wasn’t a mole; it was nothing — until it wasn’t,” she says.

The podcast host knew something wasn’t right after watching Khloe Kardashian have a mole removed.

She realised it looked suspiciously like hers, so she went and had it checked again.

Catherine Smartt thought she had a pimple on her face — but it turned out to be the most dangerous type of skin cancer.
Catherine Smartt thought she had a pimple on her face — but it turned out to be the most dangerous type of skin cancer. Credit: Catherine Smartt

“We decided it was still okay, and to take it off after I had the baby,” Catherine tells 7Life.

“Pregnancy makes my moles go nuts, so (we thought) it would probably just go away.”

To her surprise, she was diagnosed with stage one melanoma on January 29 this year.

“The thought of leaving my kids without a mum devastated me,” she says.

Before being diagnosed, Catherine says she was just a typical mum, trying to juggle parenting life and make time to book in doctors’ appointments for herself in between.

“I’d just signed up for some mum and bubs Pilates and was ready to get back into living a fit and healthy life after having my baby in October 2023,” she says.

The mum would regularly get her skin checked - but not regularly enough.
The mum would regularly get her skin checked – but not regularly enough. Credit: Catherine Smartt

She says she had “no physical symptoms other than a changing patch of skin on my face”.

“It was following the birth of my son … that it really started to aggressively change,” she says.

“And I didn’t feel comfortable with the previous assessment that it was likely to be hormonal, or related to the pregnancy, and nothing to worry about.”

Catherine says her initial reaction to finding out it was cancer was shock.

“With my daughter starting school the next day, I didn’t have the time to really absorb what had happened,” she says.

“I was very factual about the whole process — I had a cancerous mark on my face that needed to be removed and that was it.”

Catherine says after consulting a plastic surgeon she realised the ‘significant’ impact of the cancer.
Catherine says after consulting a plastic surgeon she realised the ‘significant’ impact of the cancer. Credit: Catherine Smartt
Her initial reaction to finding out it was cancer was shock.
Her initial reaction to finding out it was cancer was shock. Credit: Catherine Smartt

It was after having been diagnosed, and a consultation with a plastic surgeon, that she realised it was “going to impact my face in a much more significant way than I expected”.

Catherine needed two surgeries — one to remove the mark, a second to remove the cancer.

She says the second operation was much more painful, and a lot harder to process mentally than the first.

“Physically I was unrecognisable, and mentally I was only just starting to come to terms with what life could have been like if it hadn’t been removed when it was,” she says.

“My ongoing treatments will consist of regular taping to help the wound flatten and heal.

Catherine had just given birth to her son, when she learnt she had cancer.
Her second surgery was more painful than the first and harder to process mentally.
Her second surgery was more painful than the first and harder to process mentally. Credit: Catherine Smartt

“I’ll be undergoing skin treatments in a clinic to help with the scarring, and hopefully that will be all I need.

“Over time, my nose and lip will hopefully return to their normal position as they have been lifted due to the surgeries.”

Catherine says she is still in the process of healing, with her last surgery only in February.

“There’s a while to go before I can stop taping the scar and return to a normal day of getting up and applying my makeup,” she says.

“It’s been a tough summer, and I’m looking forward to the cooler months with lower UV and more chances to cover up without constantly reaching for the SPF.”

Catherine says she is still in the process of healing.

The mum-of-three says if the experience has taught her anything, “it’s that I’ll be getting regular checks forever”.

“Melanoma is not to be taken lightly,” she says.

She suggests others should have any skin marks checked — and it doesn’t have to be a new mark or mole.

“Get regular skin checks with a professional to make sure if a skin cancer does appear you catch it nice and early,” Catherine says.

“Mine was early, stage one — and yet I have a four centimetre scar down the middle of my face.

“The stages might sound minor, but cancer is cancer; don’t risk it.”

Catherine before her cancer diagnosis.

Catherine says she is yet to broach the topic of her melanoma with her kids.

“I remember what it felt like when I was a child, and my mother had a melanoma removed from her arm,” she says.

“I was in primary school and it was scary to hear my mum had cancer — thankfully she survived and is (still) with us now.

“The kids know mummy needed to go to hospital to remove a spot from her face that could have made her very sick.

“I’m also ensuring that they know to wear their hats, cover up, go in the shade where possible and not to go outside without sunscreen.

“They are fair skinned like me, born with moles on their skin and have blond hair — they understand they cannot get burnt.”

She says to ‘trust in the process and continue to make yourself a priority by having regular skin checks’.

Catherine has been throwing herself into raising awareness of melanoma as a way of getting through her own healing journey.

“I’ve received countless DMs and emails from people who have had checks and then melanomas removed as a result,” she says.

“It makes sharing the more difficult moments worth it, as I know my honest account of the process is making a difference.”

‘Look after yourself’

She is also continuing to produce her weekly ‘Reality Mums podcast’ with co-host Rachelle Bingham.

Together, the pair uses the podcast as a vehicle to discuss Catherine’s melanoma journey.

Her advice to those suffering from melanoma is to “stay positive, as hard as that is”.

“You will heal in time, but it will take some time,” she says.

“Trust in the process and continue to make yourself a priority by having regular skin checks.

“I would especially ask mums to remember that, even though your children are important, kids need their mum to be healthy and ok.

“Putting off skin checks and regular visits to the GP could have life changing consequences, look after yourself.”

SOURCE: 7NEWS

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