Bendigo MP Lisa Chesters had sought medical advice for a certain spot on her eyeball before, but when her colleagues started commenting on it, she decided to get a second opinion.
“I remember really clearly (Bill Shorten) saying ‘That looks really sore, are you OK?’” Ms Chesters said.
And it is lucky she did get that second opinion: the spot turned out to be a rare cancer called conjunctival melanoma, for which she is still undergoing treatment.
Ms Chesters first had the spot checked by a specialist in 2014 and again two years later, but its removal was not thought essential.
Once her parliamentary colleagues started noticing it, though, she was prompted to take further action.
A second specialist suggested removing it to be safe, and after the April operation it was tested, as standard.
That was when it was discovered to be cancerous.
Ms Chesters has now had a second surgery, and will undergo radiation therapy to ensure all the melanoma cells are cleared.
For the politician, the incident has highlighted two issues: the importance of having medical concerns checked out, and the costs people can face in Australia’s two-tier health system.
Before the diagnosis, Ms Chesters said, she had wondered whether she was being paranoid.
She credits her colleagues with saving her life, and urges anyone with a spot on their eye to see their GP or optometrist.
“The good news is, I got to it early,” Ms Chesters said.
But she said she also felt fortunate that she was in a financial position that allowed her to pay the Medicare and private health insurance gaps when seeking consultations and treatment.
Ms Chesters needed an anaesthetist for her surgeries, which saw her pay hundreds in gap fees.
“The care that I’ve had has been fantastic,” she said.
“The care you get is quality, it’s just the cost of it.”
She voiced concerns that people could put off medical advice or care due to costs.
Ms Chesters said more money needed to be invested into hospitals to cut waiting lists, and reducing out-of-pocket costs.
“Everyone should have access to quality, universal healthcare, and it shouldn’t be dependent on your credit card,” she said.