Warning About Skin Cancer

Reporter: Graeme Butler

Rowan says "everyone thinks they're invincible and you're still young and fit and everything else I definitely thought I was invincible" Rowan Barrett lives life to the full - he loves the sun and the surf - he and partner Rahnee had their lives mapped out. "I always wanted to get married when I met rowan I thought this is it this is the guy I want to spend the rest of my life with and this is the guy I want to start a family with " but a week ago, at just 34, Rowan Barrett's carefree life was dealt an unexpected and devastating blow - "to sit in a room with a doctor telling you what we had to be told unfortunately is unbelievable like you're just blown out of the water at this age at this time of your life to hear those words oh there's just nothing to describe it it's devastating"

Rowan had stage four cancer - the shocking aftermath of a malignant melanoma removed four years ago - it had spread... a living nightmare that won't go away. "The hardest time for me is the mornings and stuff I wake up and it's oh we're back here sorry" Rowan was always aware of the danger of the sun and used sunscreen, but around his ankles where his wetsuit ends his skin was regularly exposed. "Everyone thinks it's not them we're all bullet proof until you hear the words in the surgery incurable it's here here here here I mean no one should have to hear that"

To look at rowan it's hard to believe the battle he's about to wage - - the doctors don't pull their punches, "what happens if I have nothing done and he said you might only have six months I haven't got time for illness" Rowan is about to begin chemo therapy to buy time - he's positive and hopes life will be measured in years not months. "I'm fighting for my life you know and it's trying to get that into your head that you're about to embark on the hardest time of my life an dyes I am a fighter always been a fighter I used to box fought in Thailand Thai fighting and I'm always a fighter I don't give up I'm very stubborn"

As unfair and unbelieveable as it seems to think Rowan's life could be cut so short - the frightening truth is he's far from alone. "We really do have to hammer home to blokes that we're not invincible and that skin cancer is a very very serious thing in deed" Terry Slevin from the cancer council says the rate of young men being diagnosed and dying from melanoma is on the rise and far outstrips the number of women with the disease. "I think there's generally a culture that men aren't really expected to look after their skin in the way women are and I think there's even a sense that it's a bit woosy or gurly to look after your skin I think rowans story is a very powerful point that this really is genuinely important an dit genuinely does destroy people's lives"

Rowan says "I think everyone should look at me and I f you know me or you've seen me and that just realise it happened to me and it could happen to anyone it's not older people it's young people and fit people it's anyone especially melanoma and stuff anyone in the sun or anything like that can be affected" Rowan and Rhanee don't know how long they've got together, they say they'd like to have a family regardless of what happens in the future and that's presented another unexpected battle. "I'd love to have a little person there to remind me of him and to watch them grow and be able to share that with tat is part of him and whether he's here or not it's still something that' important to me as long as it's what we both want I'd love to be able to do that and share that with our families as well" but incredibly it's not important to the W.A government. It forbids the use of stored sperm in the event of someone's death... Rowan and Rahnee say that law should change. "Oh absolutely it does seem a bit silly considering one state allows it and other states don't I think if it's something that we both want to do and it's something that we sort of planned for I think it should be allowed" Rowan and Rahnee hope time will be on their side - they're determined to fight. "You're never going to give up hope I mean you don't' want to look at the bleakest picture obviously and I'm going to keep fighting on and see how long this ride takes us and see where we end up"

For more information on cancer visit:

http://www.cancerwa.asn.au/