Young entrepreneur’s warning after itchy mole turns out to be skin cancer
A 27-year-old entrepreneur who was diagnosed with skin cancer after discovering an itchy mole has urged other young people to get checked if they feel something is wrong.
Jack Parsons, CEO of The Youth Group who is regularly named one of Europe’s most connected entrepreneurs, was speaking during Skin Cancer Awareness Month in May.
Jack, who is influential on the social media network LinkedIn with 12 million weekly impressions, first discovered the mole during lockdown.
Concerned by what he saw, he referred himself to London’s St John & St Elizabeth Hospital, where plastic surgeons took a sample ‘there and then’ and sent it off for analysis.
After a nine week wait – which he described as ‘the longest of his life’ – the tests confirmed his worst fears.
“It takes a lot for me to cry, but I don’t have any shame in admitting that when I got back from the hospital and they told me I had cancer I just sat and cried, ” said Jack.
“I was living on my own at the time and because of the lockdown I couldn’t even see my friends and family.
“I had no-one around me for support, we were in the middle of a global pandemic, and I just felt so isolated. I struggled to find the motivation or energy to get out of bed or do anything.”
In his role as the UK’s Chief Youth Officer, Jack has helped more than a million young people into employment and has worked with Chancellor Rishi Sunak on the Government’s Kickstart scheme.
Alongside running The Youth Group, he is also a renowned public speaker and global ambassador for mental health awareness both in the workplace and in education.
However, one thing he didn’t expect was how badly the diagnosis would affect his own mental health and wellbeing.
“It was a very scary, very lonely time,” he said. “Physically and mentally, it was without doubt the biggest challenge I’ve ever had to overcome.”
Following his diagnosis, Jack had to undergo another test – called a sentinel lymph node biopsy – where dye is injected into the body to determine whether the melanoma has spread.
He then had a third and final operation to ‘dig deeper’ and ensure all the cancerous cells had been properly removed.
To his relief he was given the all-clear weeks later – but he said the ordeal has had a profound impact on him.
He said that his battle had “taught me to be kinder, to respect time and make self-care a top priority.”
“I definitely have more meaningful conversations with people now and also try to look after myself a lot more.
“Pre-Covid I was running around all over London attending meetings. Like a lot of entrepreneurs, I had a really busy schedule and wasn’t looking after myself properly at all.
“In fact, if we weren’t in a pandemic and I wasn’t suddenly spending so much time at home I honestly don’t think I would have got it checked out as soon as I did.”
He added: “My advice to other people would be to listen to your body. The human body is amazing – if there’s something wrong it will tell you.
“I felt fatigued, I slept for two days which is so unlike me. That’s when I knew something was up. It’s important if you feel a change in your body to acknowledge it and trust your instincts.”
Despite Jack having to take a back seat in the business while he recovered, The Youth Group still managed to get more than 10,000 young people into work.
Not only that, but the company also grew its revenue by 700% – something Jack put down to the “amazing” team around him.
“It really taught me that The Youth Group is far bigger than just me,” he said. “It’s so important to surround yourself with people you trust who can get the job done if you aren’t around.”