Tell us a little about yourself
I am a 59 year old female, working as a hospital doctor in a small town.
When and how did you first find out you had melanoma?
I had a mole on my leg that had actually been bothering me for years, and a couple of colleagues had had a look at it and thought not to worry. Then we moved across the country and I remember looking at it in the mirror and thinking, gee, it is changing! But that did not click and it took me another year to organise a skin check. There the GP skin doctor again did not feel it was too urgent, but by then I was worried enough and had it cut out. He called me a week later with the bad news.
Tell us about your treatment
I was very fortunate, and a day after the phone call, I sat with a plastic surgeon who did the WLE another day later. The next week I had my first PET scan and was very relieved that I did not make it past stage 3b! Yet another week later I saw the oncologist and I think some 4 weeks after diagnosis I had my first nivolumab infusion. We started off with fortnightly infusions. All went well until I developed massive diarrhoea after the 8thtreatment. Again, doctors are the worst patients! I did not think anything of it, took gastrostop and went on my diving course… and after a week texted my oncologist if there was anything to worry about since it just did not stop… She rang me back within 5 minutes! And so the journey with immune therapy related colitis began… It took a couple of admissions, colonoscopies and lots of prednisone, infliximab and eventually vedolizumab to get it under control.
What challenges did you and your family and/or friends face after your diagnosis?
As my family is living in Europe, the distance has been really hard. I have felt very isolated and lonely. Fortunately, both my sons have been able to spend some time with me and thanks to modern communications my overseas family have been able to support me.
Tell us about your involvement with MPA
I have been very grateful for the information and support provided by Melanoma Patients Australia.
How has melanoma cancer affected your outlook on life?
I have found it difficult to incorporate a cancer diagnosis in my life, however, I have had great advice of my brother, who dealt with (a different) cancer some years ago, who managed to approach life as normal (ie without cancer hanging over your head), after he finished treatment. It was not easy, but I have adopted the same attitude: I refuse to have my life determined by cancer and so, I am planning my (pre)retirement, my trips in Australia (and one day again overseas), I am looking forward to the day I will be a grandmother hopefully. Having said that – I am much more inclined to live day by day… but that is not such a bad thing!
Do you have a motto or personal mantra?
I’m happiest when…
I have my kids and family close to me.