Ten years ago, at the age of 21, a painful freckle on the back of my shoulder blade turned out to be Stage II melanoma. Surgery was booked and I said goodbye to two lymph nodes, got the all clear and went on with my life. Embarking on my career, having an overseas holiday, getting married and building a new home – as you can imagine, life was pretty great!Then on a romantic weekend away early last year I felt a hard lump under the left armpit. Within a few weeks I was in surgery and this time 18 nodes were removed. I had a drain for six weeks and after that was removed I took part in a clinical trial which entailed moving some of my ovarian tissue in the hope of harvesting this later to help us to create embryos.
Unfortunately during that surgery they discovered one of my ovaries was black. A scan revealed that the melanoma had spread not only to my ovaries but also to my pancreas and kidney. I was now Stage IV. I was also introduced to MPA at that time and I immediately experienced an amazing level of support from people who could understand exactly what I was going through.
Over the next four months this support became my lifeline, through both genuine and heartfelt counselling as well as chatting with others going through similar experiences. We traded war stories, laughed and cried but above all else my melanoma buddies just got it.
Because I’m BRAF positive I’ve been put on targeted therapy that wasn’t even available a few years ago. Thanks to research and MPA’s continued advocacy and commitment to lobbying the PBS, I’ve been able to have this treatment meaning my tumours have shrunk by 50%. I’m still alive and I still have further options.”
I often think this isn’t fair on my hubby, who didn’t sign up to be my driver, nurse and hot water bottle. But he has followed through on his for better or worse vows and never ever complains. My family, my friends and my small country town community; all of their support has just been overwhelming.
But not everyone is as lucky as I am to have this support and many melanoma patients feel isolated due to their geographical and health constraints.
This is where you can help.
Melanoma Patients Australia (MPA) would like to create a series of videos and booklets which will include stories just like mine. These stories will share ideas on how to cope and move forward with a melanoma diagnosis. We’ll be discussing the down days, the things that help get you through, the general experience of different treatments as well as hearing from other families and friends to offer their insights.
By making a donation today you’ll be helping patients just like me realise that we are not alone in this battle. My favourite saying is by the famous Jamaican musician Bob Marley (who died of melanoma in 1981), “You never know how strong you are, until being strong is your only choice”. Personally I like to add brave into the mix too…
So be someone strong and brave and click here now.
All donations will go towards the Melanoma & Me series of videos where you’ll be acknowledged (with your permission) as one of the supporters of this initiative. So can I count on you to be part of this amazing MPA support network for patients just like me?
Together we’ve got this!