Kristen Pickford

MPA Patient Story - Kristen Pickford wearing cowboy hat smiling at the camera

Tell us a little about yourself

I am a Mum of 2 beautiful kids Isabella 9 and Harley 7 and married to my husband Sam.

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

I was diagnosed with Melanoma when I was 28 years old and 28 weeks pregnant with Harley.  Isabella was nearly 2.  I had my hair cut short in preparation of having a newborn baby so it was easy to take care of and my hair dresser noticed a mole on the back of my neck.  I am not sure if it had been there previously or if it was completely new.  I had my skin checked all over 6 months beforehand and there was nothing out of the ordinary then.  So it had come up and changed during my pregnancy.  At first my doctor thought it was a skin tag filling with blood so I was told to keep an eye on it and if it continued to change then she would remove it.  I kept hitting it with my hair brush and it doubled in size in 2 weeks so I had it removed.  I knew nothing about skin cancer or Melanoma and I assumed once it was removed then I would be fine.  My doctor did say it would change my life but  I certainly never thought I would be still fighting it so hard 8 years later.

Tell us about your treatment

I had my first surgery when I was 32 weeks pregnant.  This was one of the hardest surgeries I went through because I was so worried about my unborn baby.  Before any of this happened having a baby bound around inside of you with the hiccups could become a little frustrating.  But a couple of hours after surgery it was the best feeling ever as I knew he was ok. Harley was born and 4 weeks later I found a lump in my neck and prayed it was scar tissue.  It wasn’t.  I then had a neck dissection with 28 lymph nodes removed.  Melanoma was found in 3 nodes so I then had to have further treatment.  I put my hand up for a clinical trial.  The trial lasted for 2 and a half years with scans for 5 years.

On the last scan of the five years I went into Peter Mac with a spring in my step ready to be released into the world cancer free.  No.  There was now Melanoma on my liver.  I had another surgery to remove this.  I was cancer free again.  Then 3 months later another scan showed Melanoma on my Pancreas.  This one couldn’t be removed by surgery.  I am now on Keytruda infusions every three weeks at Peter Mac, a 3 hour drive from home.  My body has fought off the cancer and I am again cancer free.

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

Every time I was diagnosed our world was turned upside down.  There were so many trips to Melbourne for more scans and tests to see if it was melanoma and then waiting for results and then working out treatment plans and seeing doctors.  I always tried to shield the kids from the absolute worst of it and explained it to them in small bits.  This was much easier when they were younger.  They understand now that I am ok, but are still worried it might come back.  These are always hard conversations to have.  They have been to see my doctor and have asked their own questions which I think helped them put their little minds at ease.

Tell us about your involvement with MPA

How has melanoma cancer affected your outlook on life?

I don’t think I have ever changed my outlook on life.  I have always been a very positive person.  I am very lucky that there was time between my first Melanoma and my last one.  It has given scientists and doctors time to create Keytruda and other immune therapies so that I can continue to fight.

Do you have a motto or personal mantra?

“Do the things you love with the people you love most”  We do this a lot as a family and it is so important that we continue to do and make amazing memories for us all to share.

I’m happiest when…

I love being outside with my kids on the farm.  My daughter and I both ride horses and I love being able to share that with her.

Kristen provided her story to MPA in August 2017.

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