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Diary of a 20 Something Stage 4 Cancer Patient.

August 1, 2017

 

My name is Jolene and I was diagnosed with stage 4 malignant melanoma on the 29th September 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 now been living with stage 4 cancer for the past six and a half years, and in some ways I am stronger than ever.

 

In September last year I decided to start the blog, melanomajo.com to share my story and raise awareness of skin cancer. Melanoma is the most deadly form of skin cancer and I feel if often doesn't get the same amount of media attention as other types of cancer. With the summer months in full swing it is even more important to be aware. 

 

I was born at Northampton General Hospital 30 years ago in May 1987, two and a half months premature, weighing just 2 pounds 12 ounces. At the time, I had a variety of health problems ranging from jaundice to a hole in the heart, and also a benign lump on my head which was removed when I was a toddler, which subsequently left me with a small bald patch on my head. Despite the rocky start to life I fared pretty well up until I hit adulthood.

 

At 18, on advice from my Mum I paid a visit to the GP about a mole on my neck which had become itchy and raised. No sooner had I gone to GP I'd had it removed at the same hospital I was born in. A couple of weeks later just before going away to start university I visited the hospital to be told that the results had come back and the mole was malignant melanoma. I didn't know anything about this type of cancer before, and when researching associated it with people who get sunburn and don’t cover up properly on hot days. I I have never been a sun worshipper and have always been pale and stayed out of the sun, so the diagnosis threw me.

 

Fast forward to 2010, five years after my initial diagnosis and I was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. A series of follow ups and scans revealed I had both a brain tumour and a lung tumour and was forced to moved home not long after graduating from university. Since 2010 I have had surgery to removed tumours from my brain and lung and well as two separate operations on my bowel to remove cancer, the most recent being in May last year.

 

Since starting iv treatment in September 2014 things have become much more of a struggle, I have found that having cancer has become part of my normal routine, and sadly this will not change in the future. I am in a position where I need to have treatment in order to stay stable, so not having any treatment isn’t an option. That being said It is a small price to pay for staying alive. 

 

I have been in the side of medical developments over the past three years, so far it has all been a matter of luck and medical advances, and long may that continue. It would be great if I really did have control of the future, I'm sure if this was the case I'd make a lot of money selling my secret.

 

I travel to my hospital appointments, have a variety of tests and scans, loads of needles stuck in my on frequent basis, I currently have an Immunotherapy treatment that makes me feel completely exhausted and under the weather for days on end. However, I am not a cancer warrior, It's not a war, This is not a fight, and I am certainly not brave at all, and I am naturally very scared about the future. At the moment I am getting on with living with cancer because there is no other choice, no other path for me to chose. If I chose to opt out of treatment I will die sooner. I am remaining positive and I think this has made a huge difference to my state of mind. I don't have control over my life and my future which is hard to accept, but I don’t have another option. Things are going well at the moment, I am lucky that Pembrolizumab is working for me and I hope this continues and my quality of life stays the same for as long as possible.