Like many people, Sue Riddell was a sun-worshipper in her teens. But she never dreamt it would lead to her having to have her ear removed.
When the theatre nurse spotted a scab on her ear in July last year, she thought she’d just burnt herself with her hair straighteners. Nothing could have prepared her for the fact she had cancer.
“I’d thought nothing of the scab as I sometimes caught my ear when using my hair straighteners,” says Sue, 49 and from Harborne, Birmingham.
“I saw a consultant who advised me to keep an eye on it for a couple of weeks. He didn’t think it looked suspicious. But it didn’t go away and would bleed if I caught it with the hairbrush so the consultant decided to take it off and send it away for tests.”
The results came back saying it was a stage two melanoma.
Sue, who is married to Philip, 60, a consultant anaesthetist, says: “I was devastated, My husband physically crumpled in the chair. It was 2.4mm deep, which doesn’t sound a lot but meant it was a deep melanoma.”
After a meeting with a consultant dermatologist, plastic surgeon and specialist nurse, Sue took the brave decision to have her ear removed.
She said: “It was a huge shock to myself and my family but, when you’re faced with a life-or-death situation, difficult decisions have to be made.
“You need to have a 3cm clearance all the way round the melanoma which would only have left me with a bit of ear lobe and a stump at the top which would have looked awful.
“The surgeon told me I could have the whole ear removed and have a prosthesis instead.”
Sue, who has two sons, Matthew, 22, and Nathan, 19, was in theatre for a whole day at Selly Oak Hospital last November. Sue had to wait until March for the scars to heal before she could have her new ear fitted.
She said: “My ear is brilliant, you wouldn’t know it’s not real. I can swim in it, I can even dive.
“The prosthetic department at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital took a moulding of my ear before I had it removed so the new ear would match.
“They used lots of different textures and colours to make it match. They even put in a couple of holes for earrings.”