In 2016, Jarryd Roughead received life changing news, that what was once an innocuous spot on his lip was actually melanoma— and that it was spreading fast. We're so fortunate that Jarryd took the time to answer our questions about his experience as it pertains to sun protection, skin health, skin cancer prevention and detection.
My name is Jarryd Roughead, thirty-four years old. Former footy player for the Hawthorn footy club, spent fifteen years there, and now I’m currently working in administration at St Kilda.
Where did you grow up?
Early day life for me was spending time back in the country. I’m a Leongatha boy, so country roots meant a lot of outdoor work whether it be footy, basketball, cricket... As much time as we could, I was normally outside mucking around with mates or playing sport.
Are you advised to wear sunscreen or UPF clothing whilst training and playing footy?
AFL is definitely more savvy when it comes to training in the heat now. You’ll see training in the mornings to try and beat the heat but you'll also see a lot of players now zincing, screening and covering up as best they can to try and avoid getting burnt.
Have you ever heard of UPF clothing?
I guess the only UPF clothing I’ve actually heard of is something that construction workers or people that are tradies that are outside that are normally wearing this type of clothing but, as you can see, I’m wearing the nice long sleeve polo here today. Very light, it’s something that you could almost wear to work today too. If it was around as a player and it was there as training attire it’d definitely be something you’d think about.
How did you discover your melanoma?
Yeah, so in 2015 I actually had a melanoma on my bottom lip that had to be cut out. I initially thought it was just a blister or a spot on my lip that would go away, but it never did. Once I got it checked, they moved pretty fast and made sure that they cut it out. And then, in 2016 unfortunately the melanoma had spread, and I had four tumours in my lungs that need to be treated for.
How did it feel to be diagnosed?
Yeah, some differing emotions, obviously you get scared. I was twenty-nine years old at the time and had recently been married so life was on hold at that moment. But I had the great people at Peter Mac to look after me, I had a great nurse and a great oncologist, and they outlined what was going to happen for us to move forward.
I guess post second diagnosis I had some different emotions and what not going through your mind. Initially, you know, similar to my lip, I just thought it’d be something that’d be able to be cut out and I’d be back to playing footy soon, but, you know, this is something that I understood pretty quickly once the oncologist said, ‘You have four tumours on your lungs,’ that it was a lot more serious and unfortunately, with the road ahead, that I was looking at going through it was going to be some tough times. Some of the things that I experienced whether it be at the Peter Mac cancer centres or just in everyday life. You know, your lease has been taken away from you so, scared is definitely one because you don’t want to think about the other option when it comes to cancer but had some great people around me, a lot of positive thoughts and what not, which helped me get through.
What happened after the diagnosis?
Some of the treatments I went through were, every three weeks I had an infusion of two drugs which were, at the time, a trial. So, you’re almost like a guinea pig for the cancer centres but there’d be some great positive news around this type of drug and trial and you know, I was pretty open with my nurse and my oncologist in my everyday changes, which, unfortunately, you know, there were some side effects, but after six to eight months I’d had PET scans and CT scans and they showed that the tumours had gone which was great.
When did you learn that you were cancer-free?
December 2016 I got the great news that I was cancer-free. I was able to start my job again which was playing footy, so, you know, I’m now five years, almost coming up five years cancer-free which means I don’t need to have exams, I’ll just have follow up skin checks to make sure everything is in order.
What was your attitude towards sun protection prior to being diagnosed?
So, my attitude towards sun, I guess, before my diagnosis was no different post. As I said, mentioned, in some parts of this chat before, that understanding my complexion and freckles and the type of skin I have I'm not great for tanning or being outside in summer, so I was always one that would cover up. I’m not one that enjoys sun baking, I never tried to sun bake because it always ended in me burning and peeling so, post diagnosis I was as diligent as I was. But I suppose for my teammates, they were the ones that also took a leaf out of my book, I guess, and they were always zincing and sun screening up and making sure they were covered up with their hats and what not, so I guess for me there wasn’t much change but for everyone else around me there was some change which was what I wanted to see.
How has your understanding of melanoma and skin cancer changed?
My understanding now of all skin cancers and melanomas is obviously a lot more than what I did first know, you know, as I said before, twenty-nine years old and you get diagnosed with a melanoma on your lip and twelve months later you’ve got four tumours, you obviously do a bit of research. You try not to look at ‘Doctor Google’ too much. But yeah, I guess now you're understanding of how dangerous the sun can be... obviously got two kids now which I'm very lucky to have so I’ll be making sure during summertime that they’re covered up because I dare say that one of them will have my complexion, so we’ve got to be careful with the sun in the future.
What would you tell your 16-year-old self about sun protection?
Do the things you’ve been doing and keep doing them. You know, I’m not one that, as I said, just tries to sun bake and get out in the sun and get a nice tan, I understand, you know, what I can and can’t do now. I’m very lucky that I’ve come out the other end and, I suppose, been a poster boy for melanoma and it’s not something you wish you were but to go through it now and to try and give advice to people or be an inspiration to some that are going through something similar, you know, it’s just what you have to do. I’ve been given this opportunity and given this chance so why not spread the word. As we’re here, beautiful spring morning in Melbourne, sun’s out and there's not a cloud in the sky. It's going to be probably a day you wouldn’t think that you could get burnt but you’ve got to be careful. So, long sleeves, hats, you know, we’ve got to be careful for what’s to come, because it’s going to be a hot summer this year.
This blog is for information purposes only, always consult your medical professional for expert advice.