Sister's death sparks 1900km ride for Raphael

CLOSE KNIT: Raphael McGowan dances with his sister, Tess, months before her death from melanoma and (right) Tess with her baby daughter Mabel.
CLOSE KNIT: Raphael McGowan dances with his sister, Tess, months before her death from melanoma and (right) Tess with her baby daughter Mabel. Florent Vidal

RAPHAEL McGowan was on a cycling trip through America, raising funds for those with depression, when he heard his 29-year-old sister Tess was dying from a melanoma.

The former University of the Sunshine Coast student returned home in time to join his family in maintaining a bedside vigil at her Sydney hospice.

Tess McGowan-Chan died on June 22, 10 months after giving birth to her first child, Mabel. Tess was only 30.

Now Raphael is on a mission to raise funds and awareness about melanoma. Queenslanders have the highest rate in the world.

He will cycle from Adelaide to Sydney - a 1900km journey - in March.

Raphael is hoping to partner with his university in making students aware of the event and the importance of community awareness.

Raphael said doctors had noticed that a mole on Tess's back had become a melanoma when she was about three months pregnant.

But she decided to leave treatment for fear of compromising the life of her unborn child.

Mabel was born on August 27, 2011.

A month later, it was discovered the cancer had spread throughout Tess's body. No cure was available.

No one else in the family had a history of melanoma and of the seven McGowan children, Tess was the most sun-conscious.

"She was always the one who would protect herself, yet she was still affected," Raphael said.

Raphael's target is $100,000 for melanoma research.

He also wants to increase awareness among young Australians.

To learn more about his journey and melanoma, visit

Topics:  cycling depression editors picks melanoma university of the sunshine coast

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