An Epsom mum who recently lost her life to skin cancer, spoke in her final months about the dangers of not being skin aware, in a hope to encourage others to take care in the sun.

Mum-of-two Nicky Horton, who passed away in February 2021, was first diagnosed with skin cancer in 2017. Her initial diagnosis led to several years of extensive and, at times radical, treatment.

As May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, Nicky’s husband Neil has chosen to share his much-missed wife’s words posthumously, in an effort to raise public awareness of the dangers of skin cancer.

Nicky had important advice for people prioritising a tan over their long-term health: “Skin cancer is deadly. But it’s an awareness thing. You can’t always just ‘chop it out’…it kills! Don’t ignore it and don’t put off going to the GP.

“Know your ‘ABCDE’ of skin cancer; Asymmetrical, uneven Border, variety of Colour, Diameter is larger than a pencil head, Evolving sized moles. And for nodular melanoma, which I had, a raised new mole.

“Be sun aware – getting burned is the biggest cause of skin cancer. No one wants to think about these things when they’re having fun in the sun, but it’s just so crucial to be aware and to cover-up.

“Sun beds also increase your risk of developing skin cancer; a bronzed skin is just not worth the risk.”

Nicky received much of her treatment at St George’s and was unstinting in her praise of the care she received from her Macmillan cancer nurse and from Macmillan support staff at the hospital.

Two constants throughout her cancer journey were Nicky’s Macmillan Clinical Nurse Specialist, Carol and Macmillan Support Worker, Sheila.

Stock image of a melanoma

Stock image of a melanoma

Nicky spoke about Carol, her Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS), who went above and beyond:

“Carol, my CNS, has been amazing…she’s seen me a great deal over the years. She’s even popped over to my house on her day-off, to change my dressings! That’s truly going well beyond the call of duty.

“She’s just brilliant. When I was first diagnosed, we’d sit together and she’d comfort me; she was so thoughtful. You can really talk to Carol – she’d give you that all-important time to chat things over. Even though she’s rushed off her feet too.

“And Sheila, the Macmillan Support Worker, was great too. From the time I was diagnosed. She’s an ever-reliable point of contact.”

Nurse Carol Cuthbert, spoke about the powerful impact Nicky had on her: “I first met Nicky about a month after her initial diagnosis, when she had been transferred to St George’s for treatment.

"I became her ‘key worker’ and was a part of her care journey. That’s what’s nice about this job…when you are caring for someone with Stage 4 cancer, you are not just a nurse or staff – you build a relationship with this person. And with their family.

“It can be hard though too – particularly when a patient is nearing the end...they become a part of your life.

“Nicky’s surgery was significant. It was so disfiguring. People think of melanoma as just a tiny mole, but Nicky’s experience shows it can be anything but. That type of surgery can have a huge impact on a patient. I would drop by her home occasionally – as she only lived a few streets away – and redress her wounds. It just felt like the right thing to do at the time.”

Basal cell carcinoma is the most common skin cancer

Basal cell carcinoma is the most common skin cancer

Carol, a Macmillan Melanoma Clinical Nurse Specialist at St George’s Hospital, shared some advice on what to look out for:

“Skin cancers are most likely to appear on skin that is exposed to the sun. If caught early, they are very treatable and most people with non-melanoma skin cancers are cured with treatment.

“Skin cancers can vary from person to person. So, call your GP if you notice anything unusual on your skin that does not go away after 4 weeks.”

Signs and symptoms to be aware of:

• any spot or sore that doesn’t heal

• a spot or sore that hurts, is itching, crusty, scabs over or bleeds

• areas where the skin has broken down (an ulcer) and doesn’t heal

• a lump on the skin - this might be a firm, red lump or may look sunken in the middle

Anyone in need of cancer support can call the Macmillan Support Line on 0808 808 00 00, which is open 7 days a week, 8am-8pm, or visit the Macmillan website 24/7: Those who are experiencing cancer symptoms should contact their GP as a matter of urgency.

Macmillan Cancer Support has invested over £1.7million into a 3-year programme to improve cancer patient experience at St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

To help Macmillan continue to fund future nurses like Carol, visit: