Tell us a little about yourself
I am a wife and mother of 2 teenage boys and a Stage 4 melanoma survivor. I love being outdoors and keeping fit. I grew up on the Northern Rivers of NSW and every summer would be spent at the beach. Hence my skin has paid the price. I have always had my skin checked and have had a few BCC and SCC’s over the years, but never a melanoma.
When and how did you first find out you had melanoma?
My journey to discovering I had melanoma started at the Ultra-Trail Australia in the Blue Mountains in May 2017. I was running in the 50km event and at the 3km mark my left ankle became very sore and I had to walk from that point. At the 28km check point I had to pull out of the event, which was devastating. After a number of Dr visits, pushing for an MRI which led to a PET scan and then being sent to the emergency department, tumours were found in my skull and my left tibia. My primary was never found.
Tell us about your treatment
The first procedure I had was a bone marrow biopsy to try and find out what was happening in my body. That night while waiting to have the biopsy, I had a visit from the neurosurgeon who was straight to the point and said I needed a craniotomy to remove the lump in my skull. This was quite a shock and it was very scary to think of them removing my skull and replacing it with titanium. I managed to get home for a couple of days before the operation. The operation was a big day, especially for my husband waiting for me to come out of theatre. A couple of days after the craniotomy, I had the dreaded visit from the oncologist to say the results had come back as melanoma. To say I was gutted is an understatement, all I wanted to do was go home with my boys. Plans were made to start radiation and a few days later I had an operation to put a nail in my tibia to stabilise my leg. I commenced radiation on my leg and skull and also Immnotherapy (Yervoy). I had 3 weeks of radiation and 4 doses of Yervoy.
What challenges did you and your family and/or friends face after your diagnosis?
The biggest challenge was coming to terms with the diagnosis and focusing on surviving to see my boys grow up and making lots of memories with my husband and kids. I wanted to be around to be a grandmother.
Tell us about your involvement with MPA
I have been part of the Melanoma Patients Australia facebook support group which I felt was good to read how other people are going and I could relate to how they were feeling. I also participated in the Melanoma March with Jay Allen in 2019.
How has melanoma cancer affected your outlook on life?
It puts everything into perspective. I try and not sweat the small stuff. Life is so busy and I have to keep remembering to stop and smell the roses. I would really love to be able to run long distance again and one go back to the Blue Mountains to complete the run I didn’t get to finish.
Do you have a motto or personal mantra?
I’m happiest when…
I’m with family and friends outdoors and relaxing.