Bowler’s crusade to warn of sun peril
It’s not a pretty picture. But Victorian bowler Graeme Trew wants you to see it, and think about it.
This is what over-exposure to the sun without adequate protection did to him. He doesn’t want it to happen to you.
These images show Mr Trew before, during and after some of the multiple operations to remove melanomas from his head, both shoulders, forearms, ears, and among his more than 20 skin clinic visits.
Now he hopes to raise awareness among bowlers everywhere of the dangers of the sun, and what can happen when you don’t use sunscreen and a wide-brimmed hat to protect yourself.
“I thought sunscreen was for softies – that to be a dinkum Aussie, you needed to be brown,” Mr Trew says.
Mr Trew says the damage to his skin was done throughout his working life, much of it spent in sun-drenched nations like Vanuatu and Fiji working and being outdoors without adequate protection.
In fact, bowls probably inadvertently saved his life.
A routine check by a visiting skin clinic at his bowls club City of Frankston on Melbourne’s bayside uncovered suspected melanoma, and started his many operations and eventual road to recovery.
“At first when I was told I had these potential melanomas, I thought it can’t be because I’m tough. Aussies don’t get that sort of thing. I was one of those males who thought unless you’re brown, you’re not a dinkum Aussie.
“However, even though I used to lay out in the sun as often as I could to get brown … I now realise I was doing it the wrong way.
“Had I not had this treatment and nipped it in the bud in time, I may well not be here to tell the story today.”
With bowls in Victoria predominantly a summer sport, Mr Trew started a crusade to warn bowlers at his own club about the perils of not covering up adequately in the sun when playing Pennant.
Formerly in marketing and advertising, Mr Trew had posters made showing the extent of his surgeries and scars and placed them right next to the free sunscreen bottles available in the bathrooms at City of Frankston BC.
He believes that sunscreen use at the club “has pretty much doubled” since the posters went in.
Now he hopes other bowlers – and bowls clubs – will take similar steps to ensure their bowlers are properly covered up when they go to play.
Bowls Victoria keeps a handy SunSmart guide for bowlers on its website home page, telling you the times when sun protection is required, UV ratings, and maximum and minimum temperatures for the day.
Our clubs are also encouraged to have sunscreen on hand for all bowlers, placed strategically in change rooms, toilets, or the club bar so bowlers can protect themselves before play.
Cancer Council Victoria recommends five SunSmart steps during sun protection times, or when UV levels reach 3 or higher, which bowlers should pay close attention to:
1. Slip on sun-protective clothing
2. Slop on at least SPF30 broad spectrum water resistant sunscreen at least 20 minutes before going outdoors. Reapply every two hours
3. Slap on a broad-brimmed hat that protects your face, head, neck, sun and ears
4. Seek shade
5. Slide on sunglasses which meet Australian Standards
Mr Trew also reminds bowlers that even on a cloudy day, adequate sun protection is required. Checking the UV index at www.bowlsvic.org.au or by downloading the free SunSmart app to your phone gives you the best and latest possible information when you need it.
Mr Trew is now fully recovered, and bowling three times a week using a bowlers arm.
“You can’t tell how strong the sun is and what it’s doing to your body until after the event,” he says.
“A day after, you’re probably sunburnt. Too late mate, you didn’t put the sunscreen on.
“Be proud you’re wearing sunscreen, and look after your bowling mates by letting them know that you’re wearing sunscreen and that they should too.”