Tell us a little about yourself
I am 23 years old and a nurse and a midwife, working in my first year out of uni at a busy tertiary hospital in South East Melbourne. Originally from a small town called Glenrowan in North East Victoria, I grew up on the family farm and love going camping with family and friends.
When and how did you first find out you had Melanoma?
I found out that I had Stage 3C melanoma in May 2021 on the day of my university graduation.
Is there any information that you wish you had been told when you first got diagnosed?
I cannot fault the care or information that I got when I was first diagnosed; I was given MPA booklets which really helped my family to read through them.
Personally, I found writing down questions before appointments really helpful to get all the info I wanted at once. The team at The Alfred Hospital are incredible. I guess some sunscreen recommendations would have been good.
What challenges did you and your family and/or friends face after your diagnosis?
I really struggled with constantly being reminded how young I am. I still remember going to my first oncologist appointment and having the receptionist say “Oh! You’re too young to be here!”
I still struggle now with a fear of the sun. Initially, I tried to minimise the time I spent outside; but I’m slowly trying to overcome that and spend time with my friends and family outdoors again, now just with more sunscreen, hats and longer clothing.
My family are all quite fair, so after my diagnosis, my entire family went and got their skin checked. Everyone came back clear except for mum who had her fourth Stage 1 melanoma found. So if anything, it was great timing for her.
My friends are all incredibly supportive and are being more mindful about their skin too. It’s just hard coming into summer when there’s talk about tanning and swimming and just generally being outdoors because I just want to douse every single one of them in sunscreen.
Tell us about your treatment
I’d had the mole for as long as I can remember. But I saw some changes to it and had it checked out by my GP who referred me to The Alfred.
I had a biopsy done, which led to a Wide Local Excision done under a general anaesthetic where I had a skin graft taken and a lymph node taken. It was found that the melanoma had spread into my lymph node so I was referred to my oncologist.
I am currently on oral targeted therapy for 12 months with 3 monthly skin checks and 6 monthly scans. I am having regular blood tests and appointments with my oncologist to check in on how I’m going with my medications.
Is there any advice you’d like to give for someone going to their first treatment?
Give yourself the best chance with your treatment, take that time off, try to follow all the guidelines given to you and see those people that you haven’t seen in a while. Don’t fob off any symptoms you see because if you ignore them then you may just make it worse… trust me on that one!
What got you through the most challenging times?
My friends and family, having people to talk to and goals to look forward to achieving. I also treat myself to a little online shopping here and there.
I think one of the greatest moments for me was talking to one of my uni lecturers who was diagnosed with bowel cancer at a young age. Talking to someone who understood what I was going through and was able to give me some tips on managing treatment and having difficult conversations. He was able to tell me that cancer sucks and treatment sucks and that it’s okay that it sucks because you acknowledge that it sucks and you just keep going.
Tell us about your involvement with MPA
When I was first diagnosed I joined the MPA Facebook group. It was nice being a part of the group and just reading what others’ experiences had been.
How has melanoma cancer affected your outlook on life?
I think it has just made me say yes to more things and treat myself a little more.
Do you have a motto or personal mantra?
Just keep going and doing things that you enjoy. It can always be worse!
I’m happiest when…
I’m with my family and friends just hanging out or doing the things we’ve always done. Trying new restaurants or cooking new meals. Helping others and learning new skills.