Tell us a little about yourself
I am now a retired Primary Teacher after having taught for 39 years, a job I loved. I have a very supportive husband, no children but nieces and nephews who have been very much a part of our lives, and a wonderful brother and sister. I love travelling both in Australia and overseas. I live in Melbourne, of course follow the AFL and so many a winter weekend is spent at the footy with my family. Love watching the tennis…my days of playing are over and have now started learning Bridge!
When and how did you first find out you had melanoma?
In November 2016 I found a very small non-descript lump under my arm and after a biopsy I was diagnosed with Stage 3 Melanoma. The Primary site was never found.
Tell us about your treatment
I had surgery for Axillary lymph node clearance from my right axilla, followed by 4 weeks of radiation. All seemed fine and I travelled overseas for two months with friends. Upon return to Melbourne I had the regular PET/MRI scan which revealed that I was now Stage 4 Advanced Melanoma …the Melanoma had returned and spread mainly to my liver with some spots on my spleen. It was too late to operate. There was a decision to make as I was offered two options of Immunotherapy. I decided on the 4 doses of the Combination Immunotherapy of Nivolumab and Ipilimumab and then Nivolumab for two years every fortnight. And PET/MRI scans every 3 months as well as yearly skin reviews. I was extremely lucky as I was able to tolerate all the Immunotherapy treatments with very limited side effects and was able to continue enjoying my life with my family and my friends who have been an amazing support to me.
What challenges did you and your family and/or friends face after your diagnosis?
Disbelief and shock at first were my first response especially when the I was diagnosed with Stage 4 as I felt so well, had been travelling for 2 months and not one sign or symptom. In fact, all my family and friends were stunned. I was supported fantastically by my Oncologist; no question was too small and my GP was with me every step of the way. Often, I would do some research and then ask for their input or opinion. This way I could gain accurate and important information.
Tell us about your involvement with MPA
I attended the Melanoma Conference in Melbourne and met Alison Button Sloan, Facilitator of MPA support group, who spoke to me about MPA. From this meeting I became aware of what was available for Melanoma Patients from support groups to resources to events. I joined the MPA Closed Face Book page and have attended the monthly MPA monthly support meetings in Melbourne.
How has melanoma cancer affected your outlook on life?
I have learnt to smell the roses so much more. No longer sweating the small stuff.
Do you have a motto or personal mantra?
Make the most of each day. No one is promised tomorrow! If in doubt always ask questions!
I’m happiest when…
I am with family and friends, sharing a meal or a wine. For me laughter is the best medicine!