Real Life

Slip, slop, slap! Adine Wilson’s cancer crusade

A scary brush with melanoma has changed the netball great’s way of life
Adine Wilson

Twelve years might have passed since netball legend Adine Wilson was diagnosed with potentially deadly skin cancer, but she remembers the day she was given the news like it was yesterday.

“I heard the word ‘melanoma’ and just started thinking, ‘Oh, my goodness, does this mean I’m going to die?’” the 37-year-old tells. “It was really scary.” Fortunately for Adine, who has teamed up with Melanoma New Zealand to help raise awareness, she has come through her cancer scare, but it has changed her lifestyle forever.

As she and her family – husband Jeff, 43, and sons Harper, eight, and Lincoln, six – join our Woman’s Day photo shoot, Adine says hats, glasses and sunblock are key parts of summer for her clan.

“Getting melanoma was a huge wake-up call for me. Until then, I had been so stupid when it came to sun safety. I cringe when I think about it!”

The former Silver Fern, who married All Black and Black Caps star Jeff 12 years ago, admits she loved sunbathing as a teen. Then in her early 20s, she’d often be out doing farm work in Christchurch summers in nothing more than a bikini top and shorts. But her biggest regret is having sunbed sessions.

“We were playing netball in those tiny little dresses in the middle of winter and I guess I thought I’d look better with a bit of a tan,” she admits. “I just can’t believe I was so silly.”

It was Jeff who first noticed an unusually dark freckle on Adine’s arm in 2004. “He mentioned it and I thought, ‘Yes, I probably should have that checked out.’ But I was living in Christchurch, travelling to Invercargill to play netball, working full-time and planning a wedding. It was something I kept putting off.”

It wasn’t until the freckle became itchy a few months later that she decided to seek medical advice. “I showed the GP, who said it was unlikely to be anything sinister, but she removed it just in case.”

Days later, Adine received the news that changed everything – the freckle was in fact cancerous. “I was called into the doctor’s surgery immediately and told that I had melanoma. I just couldn’t believe it. I was all by myself because Jeff was away playing cricket, but I remember calling him and telling him. At that stage, I didn’t know much about melanoma and what the diagnosis meant, so it was really scary.”

Tests revealed Adine’s melanoma was caught early, before it had spread. But she still has regular check-ups to make sure it doesn’t return.

Unsurprisingly, Adine – who works part-time as a lawyer and netball commentator – is now vigilant when it comes to keeping herself and her fair-skinned sons safe outdoors. While there’s no way this active Auckland family can avoid the sun – “we just love being outside,” she says – they always choose a shady spot at the beach, wear hats and rash shirts, and slap on the sunblock.

“My boys are great – they just know that’s what you have to do if you want to play outside in the summer,” she smiles. “It’s lucky caps and rashies are cool.”

Melanoma facts

New Zealand has the highest rates of invasive melanoma in the world.

It’s the second most common cancer to affect Kiwis between 25 and 44.

It causes 354 deaths each year.

Main risk factors include UV exposure, history of sunburn, use of sunbeds, family history and fair skin

The best prevention is to slip, slop, slap and wrap – and have regular skin checks.

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