Emma's Challenge

Emma's Challenge

5 January 2017

Emma Dunlop may look like a typical 31-year-old, but she's facing the battle of her life - advanced melanoma.

In February 2014 Emma spotted a freckle inside her hairline that was turning pink on the bottom. She had it examined by her doctors, and it was removed that day. It came back as melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer.

Emma underwent surgery on her head and lymph nodes to remove the melanoma and was given the all clear. She continued to have scans every three months.

In September 2015, Emma was married in Koh Samui, Thailand at a beautiful beach-side wedding. After her honeymoon, Emma's oncologist advised that her melanoma had spread to her lungs, and she was put on immunotherapy treatment.

Immunotherapy works by stimulating the body's immune system to fight the cancer. Less than a decade ago, advanced melanoma was treated with chemotherapy and had very little success. Thanks to medical research, today a range of treatments provide hope where before there was little. In a recent clinical trial at Melanoma Institute Australia (MIA), researchers have made a major breakthrough by tripling the life expectancy for some advanced melanoma patients. However many others are not responding to new treatments and so further research is vital.

Emma has been on immunotherapy for a year now, and has seen considerable shrinkage in the lesions on her lungs. Unfortunately though, Emma experienced lots of side-effects, with chronic nausea and exhaustion being the worst.

Newly married, Emma is concerned about her ability to have children. “You can’t conceive while undergoing immunotherapy,” says Emma.

"What gets me through is a positive attitude and knowing there are more treatments becoming available. Having a positive attitude is half the battle won.”

“I’m now doing everything I can to give back by participating in fund-raising events to support melanoma research regardless of my illness and how sick I feel on the day,” she says.

Emma on her wedding day

The best way to prevent melanoma is to protect your skin from the sun and check your skin regularly for any changes.

Every time you are out in the sun, make sure you:

  • Wear a broad-brimmed hat
  • Wear wrap-around sunglasses
  • Wear sun-protective clothing that covers your back, shoulders, arms and legs
  • Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 50+ every two hours and after swimming or exercise
  • Seek shade, especially in the hottest part of the day

Suffering one or more blistering sunburn in childhood or adolescence more than doubles a person’s chances of developing a potentially deadly melanoma later in life, so be particularly vigilant with your children.

Emma is volunteering her time to support MIA’s annual fund-raising initiative Melanoma March, which supports life-changing melanoma research and is an opportunity for the community to unite against melanoma.

Join a Melanoma March event in one of 17 locations around Australia or “Move for Melanoma” by organising your own group activity or personal challenge to get moving in March 2017. Move for Melanoma is an easy way to support Melanoma March and raise funds for melanoma research wherever you live, however you like and whenever suits you.

 

With thanks to Bush Walking Australia e-magazine for originally sharing Emma's story and helping us raise awareness of melanoma and MIA's Move for Melanoma