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Chris Murphy

A bit about me…

I’m 65 years old, married to a wonderful woman. I have three great kids and four beautiful grandchildren Hayden, Abigail, Flynn and Evie. I am a civil engineer and have worked on road, mining and bridge infrastructure for most of my career.
I grew up in Townsville, North Queensland and spent many vacations on the beaches of Magnetic Island. Occasional sun burn was a tropical hazard but nothing to be concerned about.

My first Melanoma and treatment …

In Jan 2009, my wife noticed a blackish pimple on my right shoulder and it seemed to be getting bigger. Off we went to the GP we had been seeing for regular skin checks for many years. He didn’t think it was anything serious but decided to excise it anyway. After several days the pathology results came back as Stage 1 melanoma. I was booked into surgery immediately for a margin removal. Later the margins were deemed clear of disease and I had a sentinel node biopsy to confirm that there was no lymph node involvement. I was given an excellent prognosis and monitored every six months for 5 years.

Challenges post diagnosis …

Fast forward to 13 June 2017 and I was having difficulties driving. I was able to drive but confused about direction. I went to the GP and he suggested that I book an MRI of the head in the next week or so. I didn’t get time to do that because that afternoon after becoming vague and distant my wife drove me to Greenslopes Emergency for an MRI. At 4 pm the ED doctor reported “I am not going to candy coat this, you have a big nasty tumour in the brain and if you don’t get treatment forthwith you only have 10 weeks or so to live”. I was originally diagnosed with a Glioblastoma. A nasty form of brain cancer. The prognosis wasn’t great. I was booked in for surgery on 20 June but was allowed out of hospital for my grandson’s christening on the weekend. I had watched a friend die from a gliobastoma.
That week was a blur. Lots of visits from family and friends, lots of tears, lots of risks to be faced and lots of stats about surgery, brain cancer , etc. I managed to stay positive but became emotional one evening when my wife and daughters started crying. I was disappointed that I was the cause of their grief.
The surgery went well and I spent 30 hours in ICU before being shifted to the general wards. I spent a week in general wards. It was here that I found out that I was “lucky” because the brain tumour was melanoma and not glioblastoma and there were treatments for melanoma. Fighting any cancer is a daunting and frightening prospect. At this time against all odds Queensland won the State of Origin and later Jeff Horn beat Manny Pacquiao. If they could win against the odds then so could I. Also this was where I was introduced to Dr Victoria Atkinson who along with others planned my future treatment. She was on time for our first 7am appointment in the hospital. She gave me a lot of options going forward and plenty of reading material. I was overwhelmed. The only realistic option for me was to follow her recommendations. This was all so new and unknown. The family made it clear that being passive was not an option.
I underwent full body CT scan while in hospital to be told by the registrar that rest of the body was clear of tumours. Yippee. Two days later I was told that this diagnosis was wrong and there were tumours in my lungs and suspicious spots on top of the adrenal glands and in the lymph nodes on the left side of my neck and a need for a future PET scan.
I had Stage 4 metastatic melanoma some 8 years after my Stage 1 melanoma diagnosis. No driving for 6 months. What a bother.

Physically I still felt good and pushed myself to exercise and walk. Firstly, with assistance then on walkers, pushing to reach 10,000 steps each day.
I was out of hospital in a week and reached my 10,000 steps on the first day out. Prior to diagnosis, I had booked a holiday to Singapore/Malaysia in December and I was determined to go. I can remember a trip to the beach after being released from hospital and the sheer relief I experienced just walking on the sand.
I pushed myself at the gym despite differing opinions among the gym staff about exercising while being treated for cancer. I started to do HIIT sessions. The sessions helped me sleep and forget about all the decisions that still had to be made. One of the staff counselled me to do as much as my body would allow and I did. There was growing clinical evidence that exercise was helping or assisting in the treatment of all types of cancer.

I was allowed 4 weeks to recover from the brain surgery before I undertook 5 sessions of stereotactic brain radiotherapy then another 4 weeks to recover from radiotherapy followed by 30 immunotherapy treatments every 3 weeks. My goodness this was going to take some time.

The radiotherapy involved targeted radiation of the brain where it was in contact with the tumour so as to kill off any residual or remnant cancer cells. Victoria was adamant that we needed to fix up the brain cancer before we worried about the other tumours. Plastic netting was shaped into a mask to hold my head in place while a radiation machine whirred around my head emitting targeted radiation. The mask bolted my head to a table. The treatment was extremely uncomfortable and not for those who suffer from claustrophobia. Each treatment took about 15 – 20 mins and I counted songs to keep track of time and assure myself that I would be freed shortly. I suffered the normal side effects but they were just part of the journey. I will survive.

While recovering from radiotherapy, I began to prepare for the immunotherapy. I was told by Victoria that subject to trial screening I was a good candidate for a clinical trial that she was running. The trial was investigating the efficacy of Keytruda (Pembrolizumab) and Yervoy (Ipilimumab) in different dose rates. I passed the screening and began treatment on 5 September 2017 with a holiday planned for the first 2 weeks of December in between the three weekly treatments.
The Greenslopes Cyril Gilbert Cancer Clinic was to be my second home. The nurses and staff my closest allies in my struggle with Melanoma.
The side effects were real but had to be endured. I was determined to be cancer free by Christmas. A brave front for family and friends because inwardly I wasn’t confident of achieving my goal. We went on our trip to Malaysia and Singapore in December and had a lovely time there. My life was almost back to normal. Remarkably my scans on 6 January were clear and I had my third clear scan on 22 May 2018.
The treatment has not been without problems: I have experienced significant skin rash and my adrenal gland function has been totally suppressed. Some treatments were delayed while other ailments were treated but these inconveniences have been a small price to pay.

So currently, I am disease free. There’s no indication of active disease at the moment. My prognosis is now much better than it was. I am back at work but will retire now that I have proven that I can work. Whilst recurrence may occur I continue to be closely monitored and I will survive.

My family and I will be forever grateful to the team at and staff at the Cyril Gilbert Cancer Clinic, to my excellent and skilled surgeon’s Dr Laherty and Dr Matt Foote and their anaesthetists and colleagues at the Greenslopes and PA Hospitals, and particularly A Professor Victoria Atkinson and her associates (Rachel, Sharon, Ranee) who have all contributed tirelessly to giving me and others a second chance at life.

How Melanoma has affected my outlook on life …

I have learnt to wait. Wait for doctors, wait for nurses, wait for pharmacy, wait for transport, wait for tests, and wait for results. I am more patient and not in so much of a hurry anymore. I control my anxiety. I try to enjoy more of the things that I enjoy. Appreciate what I have rather than worry about what I don’t have. I don’t hesitate to ask for help. I have a lucky number 507748. (My patient ID). I hope that my story might inspire others to hope, persist and survive as I have been encouraged to hope when hearing of survivor stories of others.

Do you have a motto or personal mantra …

Living will be the death of me but I will live.

I’m happiest when …

I am walking on the beach with my wife, the sea breeze is in my face, and my grandkids are at play, smelling fresh cut grass or a good coffee. I am having a long lunch at my favourite restaurant by the river. Swimming in the surf. Feeling the sunlight on my face.
I am with my family and friends. I am getting a hug and the oxytocin is flowing.
I am living.

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