Caused by UV rays from the sun, or a hereditary condition, Malignant Melanoma takes account of only 3% of all skin cancer cases, but is the most deadly.
With over 10,000 cases diagnosed every year in the UK, it is the second most common cancer in young adults, and twice as common in young women than young men.
Treatment is difficult, with there currently being no cure for this illness. There are however measures to contain or slow down the progression of the illness. These however, have varying degrees of success.
Chemotherapy, Radiotherapy, Surgery and now Immunotherapy are all used individually or in combination, depending on when the illness is detected and where the cancer is sited in the body.
As we have just set this site up ( June 2010 ) let me bring you up to date with the last 5 months…….
Following a fairly routine operation on 15th December 2009 to remove 4 ‘cysts’ ( her Doctor, Dr Cole and her surgeon at The Alexandra, Dr Saeed both felt they were cysts ) we were called back on 4th January 2010 for the results. An hour before we went, Elise was telephoned to ensure she was bringing someone with her! We knew this wasn’t great.
The ‘cysts’ were tumours, and Dr Saeed confirmed Elise had cancer. He didn’t know what it was as it’s presentation was rare, but we had to go home and wait! We were again called back to see him on the 14th January to be told it was Malignant Melanoma. A CT scan done prior to our 7.30pm appointment confirmed there were a further 10 tumours, and an ‘abnormality’ in her lung. He told us it wasn’t great, in fact it was very serious, and that he would refer us to The Christie as a matter of urgency – we were there at 5pm on the Monday – 18th January.
Dr Lorigan examined Elise before dealing us the blow – the disease was at Stage 4, and there is no cure for this illness. Elise asked some pretty tough questions, and the answers were equally as tough.
Dr Lorigan felt the best option for Elise was to take part in a clinical trial - there is of course no guarantee with a clinical trial that you recieve the ‘new’ drug, as 50% of patients recieve a placebo.
After two cycles of Chemotherapy, a CT scan showed that there was no real benefit to Elise and that she should come off the trial. This was 29th March.
When we saw Dr Lorigan later that week he suggested that we try a new ‘radical’ treatment called ‘Immunotherapy’ which he had managed to gain approval for Elise to have. There was an amount of paperwork to complete and that he would hope to have everything in place for after our wedding, which was in Rome of 7th May. We were booked in to see him in clinic on Wednesday 12th May 2010. In addition, Elise had a large ( lemon sized ) tumour on her stomach which Dr Lorigan said they could remove – her referred her to Dr Ross who duly removed that and two other tumours on 20th April 2010, at The Christie.
What followed changed the whole ‘landscape’ ( that is a Barclaysism ). On Saturday 17th April 2010 Elise felt strange in the evening, struggling to read the words in a magazine. Following two ‘fainting’ episodes, and a phonecall to The Christe, I called an ambulance. Whilst in A & E she had a seizure – it was the most frightening thing to see. At 2.30am an emergency CT scan on Elise’s head revealed the cancer had spread to her brain. The next two days were spent at Warrington General, before releasing her. There was swelling around the two tumours in her head and this had pressed on the brain, causing the confusion and seizure.
We met Dr Lorigan a few days later who revealed an MRI scan had shown three further small areas linked to the tumours. He would refer the notes to the surgeons at Hope Hospital but it was more than likely that they wouldn’t operate as it was too risky. He confirmed it was a huge setback.
Following confirmation from Hope Hospital that there would be no operation, Elise was referred to Dr Sykes at The Christie, her new radiologist. Dr Sykes met with us and said that WBRT ( Whole Brain Radiotherapy ) would help in that it would hopefully reduce the tumours, and prevent anymore from developing. The downside of the treatment was that Elise wold lose her hair, with no guarantee of it returning, and it may cause healthy cell damage.
I’m pleased to say that Elise coped with her 8 day radiotherapy sessions well, and has ( touching wood ) been fine since then ( just over two months at the time of writing ). Dr Lorigan was pleased with her recovery and although the continuation of the Immunotherapy was touch and go, he has secured this front line treatment for her, and we began last Thursday ( 17th June 2010 ). So far so good, although the radiotherapy and immunotherapy treatment has floored her in terms of tiredness.
Next treatment is scheduled for 8th July 2010 – this will be the second of four lots of treatment before another CT scan to determine whether the treatment is working.
Keep everything crossed for Elise, and please continue with your messages of support….they really do mean so much!