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Brooke Esber

MPA Patient Story - Brooke Esber and family smiling at the camera

Tell us a little about yourself

My name is Brooke, I’m 35 years old and live in the beautiful southern highlands with my husband and 4 year old son.

When and how did you first find out you had melanoma?

I was 31 when one day I noticed a mole on my stomach which had a new black dot on it. My mum was visiting so I showed her and she had this look on her face like she knew it wasn’t good. The next day I booked in to see my GP. He had a look through his dermascope and gave me a referral to a dermatologist in Kogarah – he said he is the best and that it’s unlikely to be melanoma.It was a two week wait to see him and I noticed over those two weeks the mole had begun to get scaly and the whole area turned pinkish brown.

My dermatologist had a good look, sat back in his chair and asked if there was a family history of melanoma? I replied “maybe my nan, but that was 60years ago”(she’s 91) He got this concerned look on his face then asked ‘are you sure?’ ‘No melanoma in the family?’ I knew then it was melanoma just the way he said it. He took a biopsy and then the two weeks wait started. To be honest even though I kind of already knew I didn’t have concrete evidence so I wasn’t freaking out. My biopsy results came back, we all sat down and the dermatologist confirmed it was melanoma. My mind shut up shop, I didn’t hear much after that, I felt lucky my husband was there with me. All I remember is interrupting him mid-sentence and asking what my chances were of being alive in 5 years. I’m not sure why I said 5 years, it’s not like I had any plans.

Tell us about your treatment

I had a wide excision, which was thankfully all clear, and I was officially stage 1a. I became a dictionary of melanoma terms reading study after study, learning and memorising every medical word on my pathology report, which gave me comfort. I was Clark level 3, 0.75mm depth, 0 mitosis with brisk infiltrating lymphocytes, no ulceration and superficial spreading type.

A year went by with my 3 monthly checks which surprisingly I never really got nervous about, I assumed that because I was being proactive that any future ones would also be caught early.

What challenges did you and your family and/or friends face after your diagnosis?

I joined multiple Facebook groups, online forums making sure I only joined the ones that were based on medical fact not just stories and fake medical advice. I found myself as the years went by starting at the year one mark, to become paranoid at every bump, pain and mark. I have developed health anxiety unfortunately due to my diagnosis and sometimes it can really impact my day to day life. When I talk about it to family I usually get the old “it’s been taken care of you need to get over it”.  They don’t understand, I’ve tried to talk to them about it but I guess they just don’t fully understand the medical jargon I now blurt out.

I’m currently 4 years out with no further issues, I’d like it to stay that way. I might be lucky I may not be, but with life tomorrow isn’t guaranteed so I guess it’s one beautiful day at a time.

Tell us about your involvement with MPA

MPA Facebook Support group has let me rant, celebrate others victories and sit behind the screen shedding tears for those who have no more options. It’s a community of people who understand and care and without that I’m not sure how I would have gotten through.

How has melanoma cancer affected your outlook on life?

I like that melanoma made a quick visit in my life. I appreciate everything now, nothing gets taken for granted and I always make sure I tell people how much they mean to me.

Do you have a motto or personal mantra?

I’m happiest when…

’m happiest in my garden watching my roses grow, watching the seasons change, the look of them and spending time with everyone I love.

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