Tell us a little about yourself
I was born and raised in Brisbane where I spent my weekends either splashing in the pool, taking trips to the Sunshine Coast beaches or just getting out and about in our sunny Queensland weather. In my early twenties I moved to the Gold Coast and lived a block away from Currumbin Beach so again I was always out being active in the sunshine. Nowadays i work fulltime and am a single mother to two young adults, a daughter at Uni and a son who has just started an apprenticeship.
When and how did you first find out you had melanoma?
In October 2005 I was working as a supervisor in a fast paced environment when I noticed that my right eye started to feel more tired than usual, it had a small ache so I thought I needed stronger reading glasses and made an appointment at the Optometrist.
My appointment didn’t last too long, actually it’s all still a blur apart from the “I hope we caught it early” comment. Next thing I knew I had an appointment five days later with the best Ophthalmologist in the country. The appointment was full of tests and photographing of my eye and then more bad news – I had to have my eye removed asap so was booked in the following week for my operation.
Tell us about your treatment
My operation was on a Wednesday, I went in with two eyes and came out a few hours later minus a large tumour that was later described in a pathology report as Iris and Ciliary Body Malignant Melanoma – Focally extending into Anterior Choroid, Corneal Stroma and Anterior Sclera ( inner third only ) 2 cm in diameter along the base by up to 0.5 cm in maximal thickness. Luckily my margins were clear and my optic nerve was not involved so there was no need for any follow up treatment. For the next eleven years I have had blood tests and scans every six months and only recently have moved onto annual testing that will continue for the rest of my life.
What challenges did you and your family and/or friends face after your diagnosis?
Even eleven years out from my diagnosis I still face daily challenges and have come to terms with the fact that these are now a part of my life. As I only see in 2D now my depth perception is altered and I will always be reminded of Ocular Melanoma.
Tell us about your involvement with MPA
How has melanoma cancer affected your outlook on life?
My outlook on life has definitely changed for the better over the past eleven plus years, the first year I went to Dr Google and that was a huge mistake! Ocular Melanoma treatments have come a very long way since then but sadly reports from 2008 still pop up in the top of searches and scare the newly diagnosed who are searching for hope. After spending my first five years after diagnosis all by myself with only doctor’s support I am now a member of numerous groups. I have lost count of how many newly diagnosed I have introduced to these groups – it really does make you feel like you a changing the world for the better, helping to create a small but close community. I am also proud to represent MPA as a peer-to-peer support for ocular melanoma. MPA refers a number of people who are newly diagnosed with ocular melanoma and who wish to connect with someone who has firsthand knowledge.
Do you have a motto or personal mantra?
My life motto’s are “Knowledge is Power” and “Rise Above It”.
My awareness motto, “Melanoma – Any Place Any Age”.
I’m happiest when…
I have my feet in the grass and hands in the dirt, pottering in my yard is my favourite way to relax my mind.
Susan provided her personal story to MPA in July 2017.