A young news presenter has shared the moment she received a ‘scary’ phone call that changed her life when she was diagnosed with an extremely rare cancer.
Kirstie Fitzpatrick was only 19 when she noticed a painful lesion growing on her elbow which appeared ‘overnight’.
The strange mark prompted her to visit multiple pharmacists and doctors, who advised her there was no concern and encouraged her to remove it ‘for cosmetic purposes’.
‘It was sensitive to touch, a funny texture and shape, flesh coloured, rough and painful,’ the now 27-year-old said.
Kirstie Fitzpatrick, 27, (pictured) was only 19 when she received the ‘scary’ phone call informing her about her diagnosis
The reporter had it removed not long before moving from her family home in Orange into student accomodation at Macquarie University, and received a strange call from her doctor one Saturday morning.
‘[I] got on with life for three weeks [after the surgery] and didn’t think twice… until I got a bit of a scary phone call,’ she told 7Life.
‘I couldn’t understand why my doctor was ringing me and I thought it was quite strange.
‘Then she said the word ‘cancer’ and that was the first time I ever heard my name and the word cancer in the same sentence. At 19.
‘It was very, very scary.’
Ms Fitzpatrick was diagnosed with an extremely rare form of skin cancer that to this day has not been identified, with her case progressing over time from pathologists eventually up to the head of pathology at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney.
‘Nobody knew how to identify this,’ she added.
The then 19-year-old (pictured) put her studies on the backburner and returned home to Orange to be with family whilst she was undergoing treatment for her mystery melanoma
‘As a result, it was classified as an aggressive form of melanoma but to this day, they still don’t know exactly what it was or what caused it.’
The reporter moved back in with her parents in Orange before beginning treatment.
‘And that was university in Sydney done and dusted for me, and I began the process of working out what my next steps were,’ she said.
She said it was ‘pretty intense’, with many hours spent travelling back and forth to see her oncologist in Sydney for appointments.
‘It’s that sense of the unknown, just having no idea what this meant,’ she added.
‘What this was going to do for my life. What this meant for me.’
To have the cancerous cells removed, Ms Fitzpatrick underwent an ‘invasive and major surgery’ which saw her lymph nodes and cancerous cells cut out rendering her unable to move her arm for six weeks.
Ms Fitzpatrick (pictured) had to relearn how to drive, shower and bend her arm after her ‘major and invasive’ surgery to remove her lymph nodes and cancerous cells
She then had to relearn how to drive, shower and bend her elbow.
‘Within a couple of weeks, I got the results back to say that the cancer was localised to that area,’ she said.
‘So there was no spread to the lymphatic system or to the blood, so they had isolated it during that surgery, which was good news.’
Ms Fitzpatrick is now an ambassador for the Skin Cancer College Australasia, and encourages others to check their skin regularly.
‘Anything that might be sore, scaly, bleeding, tender, changing in shape, size or colour. Is it abnormal? Does it feel different?’ she added.
‘If you do notice something that’s different, find an accredited skin cancer professional so they can do a full body skin check and make sure there’s nothing of concern.’
The reporter (pictured) believes her experience gave her the ‘kick’ to start studying journalism, which was something she always wanted to be
Now almost a decade later, she has had another two operations to remove potentially cancerous cells she found during regular self-checkups.
‘It has been, and still is, a big part of my life,’ she says.
She believes her experience gave her the ‘kick’ she needed to start her journalism studies, enrolling at Charles Sturt University after her major surgery.
‘If this hadn’t have happened to me, I wouldn’t be a journalist,’ she revealed.
‘I’ve always wanted to be a journalist. I’ve always wanted to tell stories.’