Making a Difference
By Kathy Gardiner
23 February 2016
I want to invite you all to make a difference. A difference to the lives of patients all across Australia who like me are battling melanoma. Advanced melanoma is a silent beast that steals the lives of those affected and the loved ones that travel the journey with them. It steals your youth. It steals your freedom. It steals your independency. It steals your financial stability. To keep afloat of the mental battle is just as hard as fighting this cancer.
My battle with melanoma began at the age of 25, scared… alone… and living in London. It saw me return to my home country of Australia, seek medical observation and carry on living with a shadow over my head.
In May of 2013, seven years later, melanoma returned to my life. I endured many operations to my right arm and the pain of blistering and intensive radiation therapy through the height of summer and three days before my 33rd birthday I was told that my melanoma had progressed to my internal organs, and that I was facing an advanced terminal prognosis. With the assistance of immunotherapy drugs and a life transformation into a plant-based diet, clean living and connecting with my inner-self (and of course the love of my husband Anthony and our healing pup Winston), I have seen reductions in all of my tumors.
I turned 35 on 7 February 2016! I have witnessed and become best friends with NED (No Evidence of Disease, you can read my blog post here) and I have become a voice of the patient spreading awareness and support for those who face a similar prognosis like myself. For me the biggest win in my advocacy has been my involvement in spreading the awareness of drug access to immunotherapy treatments, namely Keytruda. In September 2015, we saw this very drug of which has assisted me, become available on the PBS. A drug that was financially out of reach for the average Australian, now it is helping give many the much-needed time with their loved ones… while also bringing much-needed hope in to their lives.
Things are looking good at the moment for me, but the very real fact is that I may not beat this disease. And like me, there are many other young Australians facing the same odds. With the help of advanced technologies through immunotherapy access I am being granted the gift of life extension. And the opportunity to share my very real story with the world. My biggest wish in life is to see the reduction in terminal cases of melanoma, in a hope that other young people do not have to face the same fate of life uncertainty as I do. And that other families and friends do not have to sit on the side line and watch the strong people they have always known and love crumble under the weight of a silent killer; that when it chooses to unleash… it does so in a very quick and inhumane fashion.
Like the last two years I have decided to join Melanoma March for the “hope of a cure for melanoma”. I want to make a DIFFERENCE and by doing so I have created Team Naked Gardiners’ fundraising page to raise funds for melanoma research. In the past two years we have raised over $12,000 for Melanoma Institute Australia as Team Naked Gardiners’ in support of melanoma research.
Last year I was so honoured to be able to talk to the 2015 Brisbane Melanoma March participants and give an insight in to why days like the Melanoma March are so important to me.
There is still a long road ahead. I want to see many more birthdays. I want to experience many more happy moments! And I don’t want to see the dark shadow that clouds my life… cloud other young people’s lives.
Main photo by Trent and Jessie Photographers.