Rafael Nadal, Carlos Moya, Ana Ivanovic and Caroline Wozniacki have helped raise awareness for skin cancer in an exhibition in Madrid, “A Setback in the Sun”. The event was run by Felix Mantilla who has been diagnosed with skin cancer himself.
His diagnosis in 2005 came as a shock to him. “Maybe I took off the shirt once a year. I’m someone who hates the sun or to be at the beach. But what I learned from the skin doctor is that you can get sun exposure on your face and you may end up with skin cancer somewhere else on your body. And I have a fair skin complexion, so that doesn’t help.
My wrist was injured and I was deciding whether to prepare for the next season in Cuba, where it is hot. We were planning a two-month trip. If I had gone there, I would not have gone to the doctor. The day before we were to leave, my physical trainer still hadn’t decided if we were going. We were having dinner and then he told me, we’re going to stay. That decision really saved my life. It is really strong to say that, but it’s true.
During that visit he saw that I had some problems with my face and said that the sun is really dangerous for my pale skin.
I can be very forgetful. It would have been quite normal for me to forget to go back and then go and see him again in six months. But this time I went back to the doctor because my wrist was still injured.
He took it out and a week later he told me that I had skin cancer. I was shocked. He told me that in a young person like I am, I could have been dead in six months to one year…
I don’t think the players realize how dangerous the sun is, but maybe they will after hearing my story. And in the future I would like to do something to warn parents about the dangers to their children. We all like to have good color on our face, but you can die.”
As someone who’s still struggling with cancer I understand how important the fight is. It’s not just about the physical and emotional fight it’s about raising money and awareness and enhancing people’s understanding to work towards early detections. It’s great to see these players doing their bit to help. It’s also interesting because I always wondered how there’s not a higher rate of skin cancer in tennis players.