What cancer were you diagnosed with?

Melanoma


What age were you diagnosed?

18 (Stage 1) 23 (Stage 4) 


What helped you to thrive?

Without a doubt, family and friends have been a huge support to me. There have been so many ups and downs over the years it's hard to always stay focused on the positive when I know I will never be cured. I try to take each day as it comes, I maintain a fairly normal routine of work and socialising outside of my frequent hospital appointments. it can be really tough at times, however, there have been a number of medical advances to treat advanced melanoma in recent years without which I wouldn't still be here. I was given a prognosis on 18 months back in 2010 and I'm still here. I think keeping a positive outlook, maintaining independence and carrying on working has been instrumental in this. I also think this is a big factor in feeling like I have some element of control over the path my life has taken.


Jolene's Story

I was diagnosed with Stage 4 melanoma in 2010 at the age of 23. Initially, I had a 1.5mm mole removed from my neck when I was 18 years old and I have been living with cancer ever since. When I was first diagnosed with cancer everything felt very out of my control and almost overnight I felt I had all my independence taken away from me. Over the years it has undoubtedly knocked my confidence, however, I’ve now been living with Stage 4 for the past six years and in some ways, I am stronger than ever. Since my stage 4 diagnosis, I have had operations to remove tumours from my brain, lung and bowel - 4 major operations over the past 6 years. I have been undergoing treatment for the past 2 and a half years, and for the past year have been taking an immunotherapy drug Pembrolizumab. 

I am fortunate that the drug I am currently taking doesn't work like standard chemotherapy, so the visible side effects are minimal. Previously my hair and eyebrows fell out which very distressing, as I did not feel prepared for it to happen. Often it is not obvious I am at all unwell, which to some extent I like, however sometimes means that others do quite get ‘it’ or understand that I am essentially living with a terminal diagnosis. 

I still manage to work part time which I am very happy about, as it helps to give me a sense of purpose and feel as though my life is not all about my cancer diagnosis. Currently, immunotherapy seems to be working for me and I am having regular scans every three months. I recently ran a charity 10k and am hoping to try and keep active and do more in the future. To read Jolene's blog click here