Blindsided by melanoma
By Kelly Wallis
4 March 2016
My name is Kelly. I’m 38 years old and just like the TV show – I am married with children... (two to be exact – an 8 year old and a 5 year old).
My melanoma story started around June 2015 when I found a lump in my leg in my upper thigh area (technically it is located in the groin, but I don't like that word - it makes me sound like an NRL player...) I went to my GP as soon as I found it and she sent me off for a scan. The scan people then sent me off for a biopsy and about a week later I was told the news that I had cancer.
They weren't 100% sure at this stage that it was melanoma as I hadn't had any previous skin cancers or moles that had been removed. Even at that time, I didn't have any suspicious-looking marks on my body.
On my first appointment with a Surgical Oncologist I was told that it was melanoma and that it had already spread throughout my body to my lungs and my left hip: I was diagnosed with stage 4 melanoma. I was referred to the amazing Dr Matteo Carlino from MIA and they were hoping to be able to get me on a clinical trial they had going at that time. Unfortunately, there was only 1 spot left - so I had to move my cancerous butt in order to get on it! We had to have new scans and biopsies and tests done which took about 5 weeks to go through. In that time I found new tumours would appear on my body every day or so. One appeared on my shoulder and the next day I felt one in my breast. Then I found one in my stomach – and well, you get the picture.
Luckily I was accepted onto the clinical trial and my treatment began. The trial was using both Yervoy and Keytruda and was designed to see what sort of side effects people would get when using both drugs in combination. After the first treatment I became quite sick and had quite a few issues with my bowels. We delayed the 2nd treatment until that was under control and then tried again. Unfortunately though the side effects became worse and it turned out they had caused me to get ulcers in my small intestine/bowel.
The amazing doctors decided to hold off on my treatment for a while as we found that my tumours had begun shrinking which was the news we had been waiting for. We were so excited and relieved.
We went through Christmas and I started to feel 'off' again. I went in for my reviews with the doctors and they decided to get to me to do some more CT Scans, so off I went to visit my friendly local CT scan people (it's funny how you get to know all the staff at these places when you become a 'regular'!).
About 4 weeks ago we got the results back and it turns out the reason I had been feeling so crappy was because the tumours were growing again. So now I am back onto treatment, but just having the Keytruda this time as the combination drugs were causing me too many other issues.
I am currently registered to walk in the Melanoma March in Western Sydney next month with as many of my family and friends that I can drag along. My amazing husband, Daniel, and I have raised over $25,700 so far. My sons’ school is holding a Sun Smart Day in the next few weeks so we can get all the kids aware of the 'Slip, Slop, Slap' message. Each child will be bringing a gold coin donation for the privilege of wearing mufti, and so all the money the school raises will also go to Melanoma Institute Australia.
I was part of the 10% of melanoma patients who don't present with any moles or skin cancers prior to being diagnosed with cancer. They think maybe if I did have one that my body kinda 'absorbed it up' and left nothing behind to show for it. Either way, there was really no way I could have got to this thing any earlier than I did. We know now that it is in my lymph nodes, lungs, upper thigh (groin), hips, ovaries, and probably a few other places that I just can't remember at the moment. During my last appointment I kinda switched off after hearing the words "it's bad news" and "cancer progression".
I would like to say how amazing my doctors have been throughout my journey. Professor Kefford, Dr Matteo Carlino, Medhia and Nicky from Westmead have made this nightmare so much more bearable. They have consoled me and laughed with me, and got me through times when I didn't think I was going to get through.
People often ask me if I am scared of dying (such a weird thing to ask someone but for some reason when you have cancer people tend to think they can ask you anything....). I am not afraid of dying, but I am afraid of leaving my beautiful children behind to deal with my death. And I am also afraid that one day they will have to go through this as well as they inherited my pale skin and blue eyes. So if we can find a cure for this horrible disease then my trip to the afterlife will be a much easier one.
Thanks for taking the time to read my story.