Dannielle's first Christmas without Adam
9 May 2017
“I'm really sorry to tell you this, but I think it’s melanoma.”
When Adam’s radiologist said this to Dannielle, her heart sank. Her boyfriend Adam had just become a paramedic and was overjoyed to be in a job where he could save lives. He was just 29.
“Adam loved helping people, especially as a graduate paramedic,” says Dannielle. “The first time we met, he had this huge smile. I knew I needed him in my life.”
It is Danielle’s great hope that by sharing Adam’s story with other Australians, she can raise funds to help find a cure.
“Last September, Adam landed his dream job as a paramedic. You could not wipe the smile from his face. Just a few days into working his new job, he started to get fevers and stomach pains at night. He brushed it off as the flu.
“Then, a lump popped up near Adam’s collarbone. And his stomach pain got worse. Adam’s doctor requested a blood test. His liver was working four times harder than normal.
“After countless medical tests and still no answers, Adam came home from his first official shift as a paramedic unable to talk.
“I took him for a brain scan and my heart stopped when I saw what was inside Adam’s brain. The doctors took a sample of Adam’s lump and confirmed our worst nightmare- Adam had Stage IV melanoma.
“In October, Adam was told he had late-stage advanced melanoma. It was so advanced he had only weeks – or at best – months to live.”
Adam was started on drugs to shrink his melanoma – treatment designed to give him more time.
“Incredibly, within two weeks, Adam felt 100% healthy. But, in December, a brain scan showed some terrible news – he now had 16 new brain lesions.
"I found out that Melanoma Institute Australia was the best place for Adam to get help and we flew from our home in Brisbane to Sydney with hope in our hearts. There, Professor Georgina Long told Adam she would do everything she could to extend his life. She put him on an immunotherapy called ipilimumab combined with nivolumab, that is used in the most serious cases.
“Adam was devastated he hadn’t yet got to work as a paramedic after coming so close to his dream. We hoped against the odds that he could beat melanoma.”
“Last year, Adam and I spent Christmas with family on the Sunshine Coast,” recalled Dannielle.
“Just three weeks later, after two rounds of immunotherapy, Adam had a severe headache. By the next morning, he couldn’t get out of bed.
“He was rushed to hospital, where a brain scan revealed he now had over 50 brain lesions. His oncologist asked if we wanted to know how long Adam had left. The question alone was enough for us to know that he didn’t have long.
“A stream of family and friends filled Adam’s room. Adam’s two sisters drove straight to the hospital. His mum arranged flights from WA, and his dad flew in from Africa.
“In his final days, Adam slept a lot, but he was always holding my hand. He told me he wanted to marry me – but was waiting until he got better.”
Adam died the day before Australia Day, just ten days after he arrived at hospital.
“When Adam died, it was such a shock to go home to an empty house,” she says. “Life without him is very, very different. Christmas this year will be very sad without him.”
This will be Dannielle’s first Christmas without Adam.
Adam would have been thrilled to be out saving lives as a paramedic, even on Christmas Day – all he wanted was to make a difference.
In his last few months, Adam learnt his family had a history of melanoma. Despite their tanned European skin, three aunties had also been diagnosed with the deadly skin cancer. Dannielle wants people to know that melanoma can kill anyone.
Christmas is approaching and a donation from you could help fast-track a research breakthrough so that young people like Adam don’t die from melanoma.
With your help, we can find out:
- What are the gene mutations in young people like Adam suffering from melanoma?
- Do young people with melanoma have inherited genes that explain why they can’t repair DNA damage caused by the sun?
- What combination of drugs can be used to treat young people affected by melanoma?