Tall, broad, tanned and almost indestructible; Whitney was the quintessential Australian fast bowler.
With an unmistakable hairdo and charismatic personality, Whitney became one of Australian cricket’s most popular figures during the 1980s and 1990s.
The 59-year-old played 12 Tests and 38 ODIs for Australia, along with 118 First-Class games for New South Wales over a 15-year career.
Skin care and sun protection was almost unheard-of during this period. And it was this exposure to the sun which would come back to haunt Whitney years later.
“I grew up around here and spent all my life at the beach,” Whitney said talking of his home town of Maroubra.
“When I started getting serious about cricket, no one wore a hat. Even guys playing Test cricket at the time had a little fishing-like cap that wouldn’t even cover your face.
“I’ve got some photos of me playing for NSW in the early 80s and I am just so dark.
“There was no thought, no attitude, no nothing towards sun protection. You just didn’t know about it.”
Former Australian Cricketer and current television presenter Mike Whitney had never attended an ACA Health Fair Day until March last year, and it could very well have saved his life.
Due to work or other commitments, Whitney had never been able to attend an ACA Health Fair Day.
A strict filming schedule with Channel 7’s ‘Sydney Weekender’ meant Whitney often waited until December for his health checks.
“If I have to get anything burnt off my face, you can’t really host television shows looking like that,” Whitney said referencing skin checks. In fact it had been over a year since his last check.
“Last year, I didn’t go, I just couldn’t fit it in. Big mistake.”
“This year when I got the email [from the ACA] I thought, ‘WOW. After all these years I can go to the free ACA health check-up day.
“I went and had it all done. I was very happy with my results.
"Bone density was good, cholesterol excellent, blood sugars really good and then of course, the last one was the MoleMap test.
“They had a solid look over my body, but I had a dark mole on my chest. One here as well,” he said pointing to his left shoulder. “And a couple of dark marks on my face, which I really wanted to check out.
"So I did that and waited for the results.
“The results came back and this one here on the right side of my chest, they told me I needed to see someone immediately about it.
"You can tell in people’s voices when there is something wrong."
You can tell in people’s voices when there is something wrong.Mike Whitney
Whitney booked a screening with dermatologist Diana Rubel, the wife of Jim Dixon, a grade cricket opponent of Whitney’s from the 1980s.
Rubel informed Whitney that the mole on his chest contained cancerous cells at point-three of a millimetre deep below the skin.
According to Whitney, if they had of been at half a millimetre or deeper, doctors would have searched his whole body for melanomas and was at risk of having his lymph nodes removed.
“I’ve never in my wildest dream thought out myself as a cancer person.
“You just sort-of tell yourself, ‘not me.’ Although my father died of liver and lung cancer when I was 16. You just don’t think of melanoma.”
Whitney explained how Doctor Rubel removed a couple inches from his skin where the mole had been, gesturing to the apparel-maker’s-logo on his Randwick Petersham polo to the size of the chunk of skin removed.
“When I asked Di [Doctor Rubel] about this, she said the damage was done decades ago.
“We had no awareness of sun care back in the 80s. Maybe a hat and some zinc on the nose or bottom lip; but I wore nothing. No sunscreen, no hats, no shirts.
“I went home after that and there was a fair bit of soul searching that went on.
“I was thinking about this, thinking about if I hadn’t of made that Health Fair Day.
“A lot of things conspired to get me there that day. “The fact that I’d never been before, that I had a day off from working with Channel 7, the fact that I played cricket against Jim Dixon in the early 80s and met his wife who now is a leading dermatologist and skin cancer doctor in Australia.
“So cricket played a really big part in saving me.
“To be honest, I’m still stunned by it. If I didn’t go this year, I could have serious melanoma cancer,” Whitney said.
“If me doing this interview for the ACA – which I’ve been a member of since day one – encourages one person to go and get checked. Happy days. Go and get checked.”