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Graeme Holland

Graeme is pictured with his labrador, Rosie.

Tell us a little about yourself

My name is Graeme, I am 48 years old and have a wife Janine and two children Amber (14) and Tom (11) and a fat black Labrador called Rosie.

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

In June 2015 my right thumb nail started aching and lifting like it had a fungal infection. When cream wasn’t working, a second doctor had a look and straight away diagnosed it as skin cancer.  A punch biopsy was completed to confirm – only time the kids have been quiet is when I got that dreaded result!

Tell us about your treatment

I was referred to the Melanoma Clinic at the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne.  The thumb was amputated to the first knuckle on 12th August.  Plastic surgery involving taking a piece of skin and nerves from my pointer finger and attaching them to the top of the thumb followed a few weeks later.  This has meant I still have feeling in the end of the amputated thumb which is great.  Encapsulated melanoma cells were found in one of 52 lymph nodes removed from my right armpit, but no other spread.  I started on a trial for Stage 3 patients where you received either Ippi/Nivo.  Unfortunately nine months into the trial I had a recurrence of three melanomas in my right forearm.  This meant I was unblinded from the trial and found I was on Ippi.  The next three monthly CT scan identified enlarged lymph nodes in my chest.  The next phase of treatment offered was Keytruda.  I was on this for a short time and then offered another trial where another drug was introduced alongside the Keytruda.  The next CT scan showed reduction in the lymph nodes in my chest but an enlarged one in my groin.  Our whole journey has been two steps forward and one step back!  Luckily for me the Ippi/Nivo combo had been approved on PBS in the meantime.  Given Ippi on it’s own and Keytruda (Nivo sister drug) were unsuccessful previously we did not think the combo would work, but guess what it has!  After receiving three of the four treatments (I missed out on the fourth dose because of side effects with my liver) I have just had a CT which showed two lymph nodes have returned to normal and the other two have shrunk significantly in size.  I could not be happier!! I have just received my first maintenance dose of Nivo and almost looking forward to the next CT.

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

Being a tradesman, adjusting to losing part of my thumb on my dominant hand took some time.  Also trying to put a positive spin on the results each time was hard, but we were definitely not giving up.

How has melanoma cancer affected your outlook on life?

Life is too short to put things on hold. Just get out there and do it.

Do you have a motto or personal mantra?

Keep fit, stay strong.

I’m happiest when…

I am exercising/training.  This keeps my mind and body fit.

* Graeme provided his story to MPA in August 2017 *

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