Survivor’s story inspires

Great grandmother and cancer survivor Val Grey.
Great grandmother and cancer survivor Val Grey.

‘We wear red hats and purple dresses, and have lots of fun,’ Val said. ‘It’s a bit like going back to your childhood; we call ourselves ‘The Strawberry Tarts’.’

Val is also a member of the Wanneroo Joondalup Tales of Times Past, a group of seniors who visit schools and talk to students about life when they were young.

Val takes her son’s old teddy and her daughter’s old doll to the schools. Both have seen better days and are more than 50 years old.

‘The kids love them,’ she said. ‘Children today are very curious about what kids did and played with in the ‘olden days’.’

Despite her zest for life, Val takes nothing for granted. She knows she is lucky to be alive following three bouts of skin cancer.

‘It started in 1967 when I noticed a small mole on my leg,’ she said. ‘It was bit uncomfortable but I thought nothing of it.

‘I was too busy sewing costumes for my daughter, who was in callisthenics.’

That changed when she visited her doctor. He said her mole was a melanoma and she needed an urgent operation to remove it.

‘I had never heard of a melanoma,’ Val said. ‘I told the doctor I couldn’t possibly have an operation because I was too busy sewing, so he phoned my husband Keith at work.

‘He told Keith I must have the operation and he wouldn’t take no for an answer. I was very naive back then and had no understanding how early detection and treatment of cancer saves lives.’

The second melanoma appeared unexpectedly on Val’s groin in 1993. Val was puzzled and couldn’t understand how the skin cancer could attack a covered part of the body.

‘It’s not as though I had been skinny dipping,’ she told her doctor.

The melanoma was removed, but the following year another appeared on her leg. Fortunately, it was picked up early, too, and after a heavy course of radiation, she was declared cancer-free and remains so today.

Val will be one of the Cancer Survivors attending the WA Cancer Council’s 24-hour Joondalup Wanneroo Relay for Life on October 19 and 20 at Arena Joondalup.

The overnight event, in which teams of 10 to 15 members take part, is the council’s major fundraiser in the northern suburbs.

For those interested in registering or forming a relay for life team, phone 0497 384 486 or email