Vanessa, Lauren’s mum, shares her perspective on how melanoma has impacted her precious daughter and family.
“I’m a nurse, and I knew it was serious the night our neighbour, friend and specialist came around and told us that it was melanoma. I had hoped for the best because of her age, but even that night I didn’t realise where this was going to take us.
“When I found out it had spread to her lymph nodes I was devastated. It was horrific and frightening; she is our wonderful and talented daughter with her whole life in front of her and now she’s facing months of tough treatment, numerous appointments, and so much uncertainty and worry for her future. It’s huge seeing the impact of the diagnosis and treatment on her; she will have to have regular check-ups for the next five years; it’s really daunting at her age and not something she should ever be dealing with.
“We are all coping better now, and I know I need to be positive, but this has really changed our whole family’s lives. We have three younger children, and they worry about her and ask questions. Nobody can tell us what is going to happen and I am just hoping that Keytruda works for Lauren and that we can keep her with us.
“There was never any doubt in our minds that we would pay for Keytruda; the treatment cost is confronting but Lauren’s life is more important than money. However, I do feel that we were given the absolute run around by the medical profession to get to this point; there just doesn’t seem to be any clear pathway for treating Stage 3 melanoma.
“My message is, don’t think this can’t happen to your family; melanoma can and does happen to people Lauren’s age. We all need to be vigilant and teach our young people about the absolute dangers of skin cancer and what to do if they notice any changes to their skin – it could save their life.”
“I think that Lauren wasn’t heard because of her age; the reality is, melanoma can strike at any age and my advice is, no matter what age you are, if you notice something new on your skin, or an existing mole or spot starts growing or is itchy, don’t be fobbed off, get it checked by a doctor with a dermascope.
“I also think Keytruda should be funded in New Zealand for Stage 3 melanoma patients, the same as it is in Australia. Lauren’s treatment with Keytruda will hopefully mean she has a future; I am thankful that we have been able to find a way to pay for it, but so many people facing a similar devastating diagnosis will not be so fortunate.