Melanoma stole the love of my life
9 March 2017
Research gives Holly hope after melanoma stole the love of her life and the father of her children. This is Holly & Nigel's story...
In April of 2014 Nigel had a biopsy done on a small lump that he had on his rib cage on his left hand side. It came back as metastatic melanoma. He had an operation to remove it. In June he discovered a lump under his left arm. A biopsy confirmed that it was in fact the melanoma that had spread to his lymph nodes. He had twenty nodes removed.
The doctors were confident that they had removed all the cancer but scans later showed that there were "fragments" of melanoma between his original lump and his nodes. As we have small children Nigel and the Drs decided that radiation treatment would be most effective and yet less traumatic for the children to witness. Nigel was at the time stage III metastatic melanoma with the BRAFF gene mutation. Four weeks of radiation, six days a week followed. He handled it like a real champ.
He was convinced that he would beat it.
His next two scans came back all clear. His third scan and blood work unfortunately showed that it had spread to his blood and bones and lungs. This took Nigel to stage IV with the Dr telling us that it was terminal. We started "memory making" with our children. We chose not to tell them that Nigel was going to die. How do you tell a five and seven year old that cancer was going to take their father? We told them that "dad was sick". We told them that dad had "bad guys in him". We chose not to use the word cancer at that stage as they were at school and we didn't want them hearing how "little Johnny's grandad had died from cancer". We would have that conversation down the track when the time was right.
He started on Dabrafenib and Trametinib treatment straight away, which proved to be extremely effective. The "spots" on his lungs dissolved and for a while he seemed to be winning the battle. After nine months of that treatment the BRAFF gene (sneaky bugger) learned how to mutate around those blockers and tumours were found on his lungs again as well as in his spine, sternum and spleen.
The next plan of attack was immunotherapy. He gave that a go for three months or so. Unfortunately that was ineffective and was making Nigel quite sick. So that was stopped. The tumours in the vertebrae were causing a lot of pain and discomfort so the Drs suggested a few rounds of radiation. They seemed effective but he was still in pain.
Still, he never complained.
Took it all in his stride.
At the end it all happened extremely quickly. At Nigel's last appointment with the melanoma clinic they linked us up with palliative care. They told us that Nigel had "weeks to months" left with us. That was just over a week before he died.
On the morning of 21st of February, three days before our wedding, Nigel woke up and told me that he "felt like he was going to die today". It was the hardest thing I have ever done. I played his favourite music for him, he loved his music. Ruby and Jaxon played on the bed with him as they always did on our "Lazy Sunday's". His mother and brother came for a visit. I sat on the bed with him and told him special things. The first time we met. The first dance we had. The first time he told me he loved me.
The kids went in to say good night to him at 7:15-7:30pm. I tucked them in and said good night. I went back to Nigel. I laid my head on his chest and held his hand and at 7:47pm his heart stopped beating.
He was gone.
Melanoma had taken my love.
My best friend.
My children's father.
So this will be our second time marching. We will be doing it every year in honour of Nigel.
Research is extremely important to me on two levels. Without the research that has been done and is still being done, the treatment that Nigel received would not have been possible. He would've died six months after diagnosis. Research leads to discoveries in treatment.
Treatment gives our loved ones a fighting chance. Research is the key.
There is also a big chance that my children will develop melanoma. And if they do they have a huge chance of developing the gene mutation that Nigel had.
Research gives me hope.
Hope for my children's future and hope for all other sufferers of melanoma.
Melanoma March is exciting for us because we get to have fun while honouring Nigel. He would love that. It brings a portion of the melanoma community together. It allows us to stand strong together in the face of loss, grief and uncertainty.
To share the burden.
To know that we aren't alone in any of it.
Jaxon, Ruby, myself and our team will be marching at Melanoma March Brisbane in honour of their father, my fiancé Nigel. Our ginger ninja. He passed away 21/02/2016 from metastatic melanoma.
Words by Holly.
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