I thought I just had a mole on the back of my head – now I’m learning to walk again

GETTING a haircut is usually a pretty straightforward experience – especially for men.

But when Elliot Simpson was in the salon, his stylist noticed something strange.

Elliot Simpson had been getting his hair cut when his stylist noticed something strange. He is pictured above with his girlfriend Courtney

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Elliot Simpson had been getting his hair cut when his stylist noticed something strange. He is pictured above with his girlfriend CourtneyCredit: Elliot Simpson
The barber showed him the mark on the back of his head and Elliot knew he had to get it checked out

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The barber showed him the mark on the back of his head and Elliot knew he had to get it checked outCredit: Elliot Simpson

His barber showed him the back of his head after a trim in July 2020 and pointed out a mole – which at first, the 26-year-old admits, he didn’t think anything of.

Fast forward two years and Elliot, from Blackburn, Lancashire, is now fighting stage four melanoma skin cancer.

Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer and is the fifth most common type of the illness in the UK.

On top of that, the Blackburn Rovers fan also suffers with Crohn’s disease.

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Crohn’s is a condition that causes inflammation of the digestive system.

The inflammation is the body’s reaction to injury or irritation, and can cause redness, swelling and pain in people who have Crohn’s.

Those who have the illness struggle with debilitating symptoms such as mouth sores, reduced appetite and weight loss, fever and fatigue.

It is often described as a chronic condition and although sufferers will have periods of good health, there are flare-ups where symptoms are more active.

Speaking to The Sun, Elliot, who was studying computing at Manchester Arden University has revealed his gruelling journey – which includes striving to fundraise thousands of pounds after regulatory red-tape meant he couldn’t have the life-saving treatment he so desperately needs for melanoma.

Elliot was 24 when he was first told about his mole, and says he kept taking pictures of it to document its growth, and sent the pics to his doctor on September 4, 2020.

“When I saw it, at first, I didn’t think twice,” he says.

“I was on treatment for my Crohn’s at the time, which meant I was having an injection every other week to stop it flaring up.

“After a couple of months I sent a picture to the doctors of the mole and they just said it was a warty lesion and nothing to worry about.

“There were a few people in my life urging me to get it checked, including my friends, family members and my girlfriend.”

But to be on the safe side, doctors told Elliot to keep measuring the growth.

I’m basically having to learn to walk again

Elliot Simpson

After noticing a change on September 30, 2020, he sent more photos.

Three months after the initial appointment, docs told Elliot he could get the mole cut off if it was something that was bothering him.

Months later he decided to get the mole removed, and went to a clinic for a minor procedure.

“A few days later they pulled me into the hospital. I wasn’t allowed anyone with me because of the Covid pandemic, and I really didn’t know what was going on.

“I really didn’t think I was going to be told that I had cancer.

“It ripped my family’s world apart and being told on my own was so hard,” he says.

What is melanoma and what are the signs you should look for?

The most common sign of melanoma is the appearance of a new mole or a change in an existing mole.

Most experts recommend using the simple “ABCDE” rule to look for symptoms of melanoma skin cancer, which can appear anywhere on the body.

  • Asymmetrical – melanomas usually have two very different halves and are an irregular shape
  • Border – melanomas usually have a notched or ragged border
  • Colours – melanomas will usually be a mix of two or more colours
  • Diameter – most melanomas are usually larger than 6mm in diameter
  • Enlargement or elevation – a mole that changes size over time is more likely to be a melanoma

Elliot was first treated at Blackburn Hospital but was soon transferred to the Royal Preston Hospital Rosemere Centre for treatment.

“They didn’t tell me how long it had been cancerous for and after initial diagnosis, more investigations were needed to find out what stage it was at,” he added.

Elliot had to have the mole removed and has been left with a large scar on his head.

It was then that the Teenage Cancer Trust stepped in to help Elliot find his feet and understand his condition.

Elliot said Tracey from the charity had been fundamental in helping him understand what was happening, as well as getting information and updates from medics for him.

‘LIQUID DIET’

Elliot had his first PET scan on December 31, which revealed the cancer was stage four and had spread to his liver, which complicated things even further for Elliot and his Crohn’s disease, as he couldn’t have the normal dose of immunotherapy.

He added: He added: “Because of my illness I had to start on a lower dosage. If I didn’t have Crohn’s I would have had combined immunotherapy.

“The weaker dose made my Crohn’s flare up and I had a bowel obstruction and ended up in a lot of pain.

“I had to go on a liquid diet for four weeks, which wasn’t ideal as it was just when restaurants were starting to open again.”

Treatment continued to trigger his Crohn’s and Elliot had to be taken in to have a stoma bag fitted.

“It was a planned surgery and I wasn’t allowed any visitors,” he says.

“I’ve got a lot of supportive people around me and my girlfriend Courtney is great, so I’m lucky.

“I have got used to living with The stoma and although it is reversible, I don’t want to get it reversed to save complications in the future.”

While the bag has been hard to get used to, Elliiot said that it has helped to take some of the pain away that he suffers because of Crohn’s.

At first I could only do a few laps around the ward – but I slowly got there. It has now been over a year since that surgery

Elliot Simpson

During his treatment, Elliot has faced setbacks in the form of infections.

He added: “I’m basically having to learn to walk again.

“The physio would come every so often and I was in so much pain.

“At first I could only do a few laps around the ward – but I slowly got there. It has now been over a year since that surgery”

But Elliot says this isn’t his biggest setback, which he says is fighting for the funding he needs.

The student says he and his family need to raise £120,000 for two different types of treatment which NHS funding has not been approved for.

Elliot said the NHS doctors are fighting to get him the treatment he needs, but that ultimately the decision is down to NICE.

“The treatment I need is the combination immunotherapy which consists of ipilimumab plus nivolumab.

“After we found out that the NHS would not be funding the treatment the doctors want me to have, they have appealed this decision by sending in an individual funding request which was backed by the top oncologists from Preston hospital and the Christie NHS Foundation Trust. 

“This was a long process but was eventually declined as the rules are very rigid. 

“Kate Hollern, Blackburn MP, asked the new health secretary, Steve Barclay, in parliament if he would join Kate, my parents and I in a meeting regarding this, which he has accepted when parliament resumes in September.

‘BEING PUNISHED’

“I’m not just doing this for me, I’m fighting for everyone in my situation,” he said.

“I feel like I’m being punished for having Crohn’s.

“I just can’t get over how devastating this is for my mum and dad, they shouldn’t have to sell their house to pay for this.”

“I find it really hard to express my emotions.

“We shouldn’t be worrying about the funding, we should just be worrying about my health,” he added.

Elliot and his family have run a host of events including raffles and charity football matches.

“I find it really hard to express my emotions.

“We shouldn’t be worrying about the funding, we should just be worrying about my health,” he added.

While Elliot is determined to raise the funds for the life-saving treatment – he also wants to make others aware of the signs of melanoma.

He said: “If you’re in doubt go and get it checked.

“I wasn’t really someone who would spend a lot of time in the sun because I’m a red-head – so five minutes would be enough for me.

“I’ve only been on a sunbed a handful of times and this is what happened to me.

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“Even if it’s just a little mark, go and get it checked,” he added.

You can donate to Elliot’s GoFundMe page here and you can learn more about his journey from his YouTube video.

Elliot has been left with a large scar on the back of his head after having the melanoma removed

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Elliot has been left with a large scar on the back of his head after having the melanoma removedCredit: Elliot Simpson

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