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Andy King

Andy is pictured at far right with wife Ruth and good mates; Glenn & Veronica at left.

Tell us a little about yourself

I am a 55 year old Dad, husband, community worker, gardener, photographer, writer and fortunate to live and work in the tropical paradise of Townsville.

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

My primary melanoma was discovered in 2002..  My wife noticed a darkened shape on the  back of my left shoulder blade.  I went and had it checked out and the sample came back malignant melanoma.  Surgery cut a big swathe out of that location with several millimetre margin, suggesting the GP had got it all.  Life went on.

Tell us about your treatment

Then In 2003 I discovered a growing pea sized lump inside my left collar bone, a secondary melanoma, which came back malignant. The first one had therefore metastasised, – spread through my body.  I had three options for treatment: total removal of all lymph systems in my upper body; radiation; or immunotherapy.

I chose the immunotherapy option which was a Dendritic Cell Trial for those with Stage 3 and Stage 4 melanoma.  This treatment went from 2003 to 2005 in Brisbane at The Mater, supported by QIMR.  The aim of the trial was to teach my body to recognise and successfully nullify melanoma and activate the immune system to deal with melanoma

From 2003 to 2006 all the scans and tests I had indicated no further spread.  However in 2007 a scan showed a lump under my left arm.  Only one node of all the lymphs that were surgically removed had melanoma.  So thankfully the surgeon found no further spread of melanoma – I believe my body had done its job and contained it.

For the last 10 years (2007 to 2017) I have remained diligent with regular monitoring with scans showing a small shadow on liver.  A biopsy sample of this shadow was taken in 2007.  The sample came back as necrotic(dead) melanoma.  This shadow is like my light of Hope; it shows clearly that my immune system has been activated to deal with melanoma.

It’s my bodies’ melanoma souvenir.

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

A big challenge was getting information promptly to make urgent but life-impacting decisions about treatment.  We also had an issue with my family being far flung and still supporting one another amidst this life transition.  I found it difficult to know who and when to share this information about my melanoma diagnosis and whether it would be detrimental for employment and work opportunities.

How has melanoma cancer affected your outlook on life?

Looking back I can see now that I accepted melanoma quickly and did not allow it to dominate my life.  This diagnosis has actually helped me live lighter and not take on stresses and anxieties as readily.  I am healthier now that 16 years ago when this journey began!

Do you have a motto or personal mantra?

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way – Victor E. Frankl.

I’m happiest when…

I’m with people I enjoy and doing things that I know allow me to live well and add to my quality of life.  I am happiest when every day I take time to enjoy myself, time to smile rather than frown!

Andy provided his story to MPA in August 2017.

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