Mum's plea after obsession leaves her with hole in head: 'The fear is real'

·3-min read

A mum has revealed the deadly side effects of her tanning obsession after the quest for a healthy golden glow left her with skin cancer and a “hole” in her head.

Nickie Murtagh, 37, from London, started to use sun beds in her early 20s as her friend owned a tanning shop.

Nickie – who is mum to Sophie, 19, Ruby, 15, and Ryan, 13 – started to steadily increase her use until she was hooked and jumping on the sun bed up to twice a week.

However, in 2016, she found a spot on her hair parting line that didn't heal and grew into a lump.

The 37-year-old mum when she was tanning and the hole in her head.
The 37-year-old mum was left with a hole in her head due to her tanning obsession. Source: Jam Press/Australscope

"I visited a GP twice and was told both times that it was a cosmetic issue and that it was only a cyst,” Nickie, who works as a childminder and children’s charity committee member, told NeedToKnow.online.

"They said that if I wanted it removing it would be by a private appointment."

Doctor's dismiss lump as 'cosmetic'

But by February of 2018, she went to the GP again as the lump had grown and was unsightly.

"Again, the GP assured me that it was cosmetic, but I broke down as it was really affecting my confidence," the mum of three said.

"The doctor said she would refer me due to the size, but not to expect an appointment as she thought it was fine. When I got an appointment I was shocked."

Three months later, Nickie went to her appointment and the dermatologist instantly raised concerns, rushing her to theatre to have a biopsy taken.

On May 13 that year, she was told she had skin cancer and was booked for surgery in December.

"I work at The Royal Marsden Hospital so I've seen lots of cancer, but that word sends chills," she said.

"We didn’t want to even tell the kids as we knew they wouldn’t be able to see the past that word."

Nickie Murtagh with her family.
Nickie, seen with her family, said doctors initially dismissed her concerns about the lump on her head. Source: Jam Press/Australscope

'Worst experience in my life'

The growth was removed, followed by a skin graft.

"I was awake during the whole process and it was the worst thing I’ve ever experienced in my life," the mum said.

"It was sent off for analysis and it was confirmed that they managed to remove all the cancer."

Nickie now has regular skin checks and keeps pushing for more awareness on skin cancer.

"I am left with huge scars and awful skin on my face due to sun damage, especially melasma," she said.

"I have tried so many treatments for this but nothing works, which shows the damage I have done to it.

"I’m always worried about a return as skin cancer is usually recurrent. The fear is real and it never goes away."

Nickie Murtagh in May 2021 showing the healing process.
The growth was removed, followed by a skin graft. Source: Jam Press/Australscope

Scars are a forever reminder, mum says

Melasma is a skin condition characterised by brown or blue-grey patches or freckle-like spots, which pop up on Nickie every time the sun returns.

"I had some treatment to try and help repair the damage done to my face and a hair transplant," she said.

"They initially seemed to work, but with the return of the sun, the damage is all back.

"I don’t like how I look now – but that’s my battle scars and forever reminder that I have my life so will do everything I can to help push this horrid cancer awareness."

The mum has shared her journey on TikTok (@nickienoomurtagh) where she urges other people to be safe in the sun and not make the same mistakes she has.

By Katie Dollard/Jam Press/Australscope

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