8 January 2015
“Life is there to be experienced.”
At 28 years of age, Andrew had been training in surf boats with his local Surf Life Saving Club when he visited his doctor for what he thought was just a simple hernia in the groin. It turned out to be much worse: Andrew was diagnosed with advanced melanoma.
At the time of his diagnosis in 2002, Andrew was working long hours supporting a young family, with his 18-month-old daughter being the joy of his life. “I was rocked. I had no idea how serious melanoma was, the prognosis was terrifying,” said Andrew.
Initial surgery removed a secondary tumour in the groin lymph nodes. The primary melanoma was never found. Unfortunately, the cancer recurred in the groin and pelvis, and several gruelling operations followed in a short space of time. Andrew underwent radiotherapy to help stop another recurrence, however, the melanoma was very advanced. It took Andrew several months to recover from the intensive treatment needed to fight the disease.
Four years later Andrew was free of any sign of melanoma. Life had almost returned to normal when a check-up in 2006 revealed his melanoma had recurred again in the lymph nodes, this time deep in the abdomen requiring more surgery. After this surgery, Andrew became eligible to participate in a vaccine trial. The trial tested a new, experimental drug treatment, aiming to improve the health of patients suffering from melanoma and stop it returning.
Since the initial surgery, Andrew has endured 10 major operations including the removal of tumours from his throat, lung and lymph nodes.
“It was terrible when I was first told but it makes you do a lot of good things you wouldn’t probably have ever done,” said Andrew. He has enjoyed seeing his daughter grow up, loves to surf, and now runs his own business. “Life is there to be experienced,” says Andrew. “No more saying ‘I must do that one day’.”
However, in October 2014, Andrew received news that new tumours had developed and his surgeon opted not to operate.
“I had gone so long with no reoccurrence of melanoma. I almost started to think that perhaps I could finally put the angst of the past 12 years behind me. The melanoma's return is another reminder to me just how deadly it is and to never take things for granted.”
Instead of undergoing more surgery, Andrew has commenced treatment with dabrafenib and trametinib, and is going well.
“It is amazing to know that you're going through treatment for melanoma and have absolutely no pain or illness, compared to what I have experienced with my past surgeries, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. It really just says it all about the fantastic people who have discovered these types of new treatments.”
Andrew, together with his good mate and fellow melanoma survivor, Jay Allen, recently walked from Sydney to Melbourne for their 900KMFORACURE fundraiser, which saw more than 900 people pledge to get their skin checked and raised more than $160,000 for melanoma research.
“It seems surreal that only a few months ago I was walking with my good friend Jay, telling as many people about medications like I'm about to try and how they are making a difference to patients long term survival. Now it's my challenge ahead.”
We wish Andrew all the best for his treatment and thank him for his ongoing support of MIA.