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Column: Only the good die young – a must read for all NZers

A column written by Greer Ell who lost her father, Douglas, to melanoma two years ago.  Greer has one simple message to all New Zealanders – please protect yourself from the sun this summer. 

What is a father to me?…  A father is someone that – held my hand over the jagged hot summer rocks, pushed me to be the best I could be in my music, studies, my nature, my relationships and my career. A father to me is someone that held back my hair when I was sick, applied the toothpaste to my brush when he knew I had tired eyes, knew when I had a worry purely by the expression on my face, let me eat ice cream for breakfast during summer holidays (but only when Mum wasn’t there), walked me down the aisle and told me everything was perfect and that he was so very proud of the woman I had become.

My Father, Douglas Ell (most commonly known as Dougie) was a huge part of my very special and privledged upbringing, therefore his death from Melanoma Cancer in June 2009 was unimaginably hard to comprehend. Dad’s skin cancer battle was a two and a half year reality and now upon reflection the emotional toll feels more like half a century in length. Stress, suffering, treatment, laughter, tears and goodbyes were just a few of the millions of emotions our family went through during his 30 month fight against Melanoma Cancer.

My mother, three older brothers, three sister in laws, my husband,  fours nieces and four nephews and myself lost the “Leader of our families Band†to one of the most aggressive and unforgiving forms of cancer – Melanoma.

To describe my Father is next to impossible. No words can quite convey the special man he was. He exuded a passion and vest for life that compares to none. My Father with beautiful grandchildren. My father with a supportive and loving wife. My father that raised three strapping and successful boys. My father with a son in law and daughter in laws he was so proud of. My father who I looked up to in every facet of life. My father with the natural ability to aggressively fight anything that came his way and all of these loving and supportive people behind him still couldn’t beat this aggressive cancer. He lost his battle at just 60 years of age. Yes – The sun robbed my father – And the world lost an angel on earth 30 years premature.

Mastering on air radio broadcasting, programming, management and radio advertising sales – Douglas Ell could do it all. I have had the privilege to continue his legacy in the world of Radio and there isn’t a day that passes where I don’t stop and think, “I hope I am making you proud Dadâ€â€¦ This doesn’t bring him back nor ease the pain, but it does indeed give me an inner strength and drive to keep going and reach the best I can be – Even if it is just a touch of the success he had in his long career, I know I will have had the best mentor in the world… Who now is my guardian angel from above. Douglas Ell truly personified the word LIFE.

You know what they say about prevention, an ounce of worth a pound of treatment and that is the case of skin cancer. DON’T LET yourself or your family/friends have the same fate as my dear Father. If this article encourages just one person to change their mind set and come to the realisation that the Kiwi Sun is extremely harsh then I will be content. Remember to slip Slop Slap this summer, Stay away from sunbeds, Consult a doctor about any new or changing lesion on your skin. Watch out for the “ugly duckling†– something that’s not like your other moles.

Girls please encourage your partners and Fathers to be sensible about the sun! Melanoma incidence and mortality in NZ is consistently higher in males than females. It’s the most common cancer in men aged 25 – 44. Men over 50 are at high risk and should be sure to check their skin regularly.

Also remember that Sun protection involves more than sunscreen. Make the most of shade, sexy sunglasses, big wide-brimmed hats and cover up with clothing. Broad spectrum SPF30+ sunscreen’s a useful addition to these things but not a substitute for them.

For more more info on Melanoma prevention, detection and causes go to

All I now have left of mine and my Father’s relationship are a treasure trove of memories – A living photo album and all of the pivotal moments are captured there. Make sure that you have more than just memories left with your loved ones… Don’t “fly too close to the sun†this summer. We truly don’t know how strong we are until it is the only choice we have.

– Column by Greer Ell written for Curl Magazine

Only the good die young – They’re only flying too close to the sun….

Curl Magazine

It’s that time of year when Ultraviolet radiation (UVR) levels are high and protecting your skin when outdoors is important.  You wouldn’t take a risk while surfing so why take a risk with your skin and sun exposure?

Sun Protection
Sunscreen should not be used to extend your time in the sun. It should be part of your daily routine that also includes:

  • wearing shirts with collars and sleeves, and long shorts
  • wearing a broad-brimmed hat to protect your face, ears, and neck
  • wearing wrap-around sunglasses
  • seeking shade as much as possible.

How much to apply, when, and how often to apply sunscreen can be confusing. The rules to remember for sunscreen application and SunSmart behaviours are:

  • Use an SPF30+ water resistant sunscreen.
  • Apply at least 15 minutes before going outside.
  • Apply 1 teaspoon to each arm, 1 teaspoon to each leg, 1 teaspoon to the body and ½ teaspoon to face, neck and ears.
  • Be sensible about being outdoors between the hours of 10am -to 4pm, especially between September and April.
  • Be SunSmart when you’re at high altitude or near highly reflective surfaces such as snow or water.
  • People who have had skin cancer, have sun damage or are on medicines that make them sun-sensitive should be SunSmart all year round.

Excess sun exposure, including sunburn is a risk factor for all skin cancer types, especially melanoma. Regular use of a good quality SPF30+ sunscreen may help to prevent and/or reduce the chance of skin cancer.

Non-melanoma skin cancer is by far the most common cancer affecting New Zealanders and melanoma is the fourth most commonly diagnosed cancer in New Zealand. Here are some statistics from 2008 (the year for which most recent figures are available):

  • Melanoma was the fourth most common cancer with 2,256 cases.
  • There were also 317 deaths (202 male and 115 female) from melanoma.
  • In the 25 to 44 year age group, melanoma was the leading cancer among males.
  • Melanoma was the second most common cancer in females of the same age group.*

What to Look For:
Skin changes:

  • a spot or sore that doesn’t heal
  •  an itchy bleeding or ulcerating spot or
  • changes in a mole or freckle, for example colour, shape or size.

If there are any changes see your doctor immediately. There is nothing wrong with looking after yourself and your skin – your family will thank you for it.

*(Most recent figures from 2008 statistics)

For more information on skin cancer prevention and detection, see our website: would like to thank Greer and Curl Magazine for allowing us to publish this article. 


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