10 Minutes with…Steve Cookson

We sat down with Steve Cookson, independent roofing consultant, to chat through his experience of having skin cancer and his advice as a survivor.

1. What is your occupation?

I am an independent roofing consultant, having previously held roles with roofing membrane manufacturers Sika, Langley Waterproofing and Icopal. I have also held technical positions with NFRC (National Federation of Roofing Contractors), LRWA (Liquid Roofing and Waterproofing Association), The Institute of Roofing and the Construction Products Association.

2. You have previously been diagnosed with skin cancer. When did you first become aware you had skin cancer?

Sometime in 2018, a mole that I had on the top of my ear all my life became sore and started bleeding whilst in the shower. Being a man, I completely ignored this passing it off and saying, “it will be fine.” Months and months went by, and it took my wife to book an appointment at the doctor for me and bully me into going.

In December 2019, I was diagnosed with melanoma (skin cancer) and told that I would likely lose most of my ear and tests would be carried out to check that cancer hadn’t spread.

3. Do you believe that long hours working outside were a contributing factor?

I was told by the doctor that it was likely due to extended periods of time in the sun whilst fishing but the exposure whilst carrying out roof surveys would have also been a contributing factor.

4.What treatment did you receive?

I had most of my left ear removed and lymph nodes removed from my neck for further analysis.

5.You’re now cancer free but do you have regular check-ups?

Yes, I’m checked every six months at alternating appointments: At the Christie Hospital to check for lumps and at Tameside Hospital dermatology department to check my skin against pictures they took pre-operation. They have pictures of every mole on my body, which they physically check. I guess I’m well looked after.

6.How has your cancer diagnosis impacted your personal life?

The time between my operation and getting my all-clear was such an awful time for me and my family. Of course, I had to tell my children. You can’t just walk in one day with half your ear missing and not prepare them for it. For a long time afterwards, I was paranoid that people were looking at me and making judgements, but we have got over that now to the point where I recently refused plastic surgery to reconstruct my ear. My wife, kids, family and friends love me the way I am, and that’s all that matters. I’m thankful to have been given a second chance.

7.If you could give work colleagues one piece of advice, what would it be?

Please make sure you check yourself and if you find anything at all that concerns you, get it checked out as soon as you can. If it wasn’t for my wife booking that doctor’s appointment for me, I don’t know how long it would have been before I did anything about it and the consequences are unthinkable.