Where are they now...
3 June 2016
Four melanoma survivors who shared their stories with us back in November 2013, recently checked in to give us an update. All four have all been through some ups and downs in the last few years, but life is finally returning to normal for them and their families.
Thank you to Louise Sherwood (nee Power), Michael Birchall, Andrew Rust and Elizabeth Liu for touching base with us again.
Louise was diagnosed with stage 3 melanoma in 2011 and recently passed her four year clear milestone. Life is on the up for Louise. In June 2014 she married her partner Rob, and this year, she made the decision to embark on a new career in teaching.
"I’m very happy to report that I’ve had no further issues with my health since the initial diagnosis. I recently passed my four year clear milestone and have a lot of hope and positivity that my life will remain that way. What we go through during those initial phases when it’s all very new doesn’t ever leave you. I’m also not sure if it will ever cease to be a part of my daily thoughts. However, the fear reduces and the mountain I thought I needed to climb is a lot smaller now so I’m happy, healthy and enjoying the life I’ve been very lucky to be given a second chance at.
"Last year I gave up my career in Finance and have been having a well needed break to think about the future. I’ve now applied and been accepted back into university to study education in the hope of one day being a teacher! Wish me luck!
"A diagnosis of any kind throws your world into a spin, life as you knew it ceases to exist and you need to find a ‘new normal’. It’s been a while but I think I’ve finally found that."
Michael was first diagnosed with stage 4 melanoma in February 2012 at just 25 years old. Given the all-clear in November last year, Michael says "life is great". He's finally "ready for the next chapter", which he hopes will see him running his own creative studio offering marketing and design services to businesses wanting to make a bigger impact.
"My health is good. After two years on the clinical trial for nivolumab I decided to come off treatment in November 2015 as there were no detectable tumours in my body. I still have to watch my health for the rest of my life, but I have the option to go on the drug if I need to. Hopefully I don't. It feels amazing to be finished treatment and recovered. This wouldn't have been possible without the life-saving research done by Melanoma Institute Australia."
Andrew was first diagnosed with stage 4 melanoma when his now teenage daughter was just 18 months old. He has endured a long and hard journey with melanoma but it hasn't dampened his spirit for life and adventure. In June 2014, Andrew organised and completed a 900km, 16-day walk from Sydney to Melbourne to raise funds for melanoma research. Three months after completing the walk, however, Andrew received the news that more melanoma had re-appeared and he would need more treatment.
"Over the last few years I have had some amazing life experiences as well as further challenging health ones. After completing my fundraiser walk, I had tumours return to the right side of my groin, in the lymph nodes, as well as an additional two further up in the pelvic/abdomen region. This time the team treating me decided to take the surgery component out of their plan and opted to use new treatments that were available.
"I was introduced to dabrafenib and trametinib as a combined treatment. This was nothing short of remarkable in how it managed to reduce my tumours. Whilst on that treatment, I was able to live what I call a normal life. Normality is what every sufferer of melanoma craves. It’s a truly fantastic feeling. I know, if not for research, it would have been such a different experience.
"This year however I have again experienced some re-occurrence in areas that were already identified with melanoma and in another two new areas. I have just started a new treatment of Keytruda and am looking forward to some positive results again. I'm certainly not letting this slow me or the family down. We head off for a much anticipated trip to Central Australia soon."
Elizabeth was diagnosed with stage 4 melanoma four years ago and is now in remission. A freak accident in 2015, un-related to melanoma, was a small setback for her, but Elizabeth happily reports that life is getting back to normal. She's grateful for all the support she receives from MIA and other melanoma sufferers.
"I am doing well with my trial (combination trial of dabrafenib/ trametinib) and because I have responded well to the drugs I now only have to go to Westmead every three months. I no longer need to do ECGs and can get my medication from the pharmacy. I can also now do my three monthly cat scans locally. But the biggest change is that I no long have to take my medication every day and have the weekends off - YAY! This has helped to reduce the side effects and allow me to live a normal life. Apart from being hit by a gum tree branch in October 2015 which ended up with four broken ribs and a broken scapula, life is good. It was nice to get a visit from Jay Allen from MIA in hospital and lots of sympathy from all the MIA support group members."
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