Tell us a little about yourself
I live in Melbourne and am 68 years old, married to Nelly with 4 adult children and 7 grandchildren. I am retired and worked in the ATO for 38 years spending 11 years in PNG Tax Office. I played and umpired cricket for 50 years straight.
When and how did you first find out you had melanoma?
I first noticed a pimple on my left cheek which I cut shaving back in June 2013. It ulcerated so I had it checked by my GP who excised the area and it came back from pathology as aggressive melanoma.
Tell us about your treatment
In July 2013 I had two excisions of the affected area both showing aggressive melanoma. I was referred to Peter MacCallum Cancer Hospital where I was given a left cheek excision, quite large, followed by a radical left neck dissection that removed the lymph nodes in my neck in November. Results came back 100% clear. My first review in March 2014 showed return of the melanoma to Stage IV and I underwent treatment with Ipilimumab (Yervoy) which was unsuccessful. Professor Grant McArthur offered me access to the trial drug Nivolumab (Opdivo) which is the BMS immunotherapy drug for advanced stage melanoma. I started treatment in July 2014. Each treatment is given fortnightly.
In late September 2014 my PET Scan results showed worsening of my tumours and after a long discussion I was allowed to have 4 more treatments. I had tumours on my cheek, lungs, sternum, spine at T4 and C2, liver, kidneys and groin as well as one on my scalp. About 40% of my internal torso was covered with tumours. I was given until Christmas 2014 to live, a devastating prognosis.
My next scan in December 2014 showed that 75% of my tumours had either gone or shrunk. I continued on immunotherapy treatment and in March 2015 I received my first scan results of 100% tumour free. Every scan since has shown the same. My results and scans were shared and used by the Research team at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre as I was the first patient on Nivolumab trial to have a 100% response. I had fortnightly treatment up until July 2017 with 76 infusions altogether.
I am currently on 6 month reviews with PET and CT scans every 6 months and MRI on brain every 12 months.
What challenges did you and your family and/or friends face after your diagnosis?
Mentally the challenge is daunting as I have a large extended family with 2 brothers and 2 sisters and their families as well as my own. Everyone was in shock at my initial Stage IV diagnosis.
I lost a lot of weight and also my radiotherapy was physically assaulting with a burned oesophagus 3 times due to the target areas making it very hard to swallow. Considerations to end of life weighed heavily as I had to teach my wife how to use the internet and do internet banking. I also put together a schedule to organise funeral arrangements, continuing pension payments and other ongoing matters if I died.
Tell us about your involvement with MPA
My time with MPA has mainly been as a participant in the MPA Facebook Group, Support group meetings and helping to support others who are dealing with melanoma.
How has melanoma cancer affected your outlook on life?
My outlook on life has changed to enjoying the small things and the everyday life, being grateful for just being here. I also have found a purpose in giving back to others because I have been gifted a continuation of my life.
Do you have a motto or personal mantra?
Live life everyday as it may be your last, but do so in helping others fight against this disease.
I’m happiest when…
I’m surrounded by family helping them in their lives anyway I can.