When Sunshine Coast mum of twins Deborah Butler was told she had stage four melanoma, she felt numb with fear.
“I was devastated because I had two gorgeous six-year-old daughters and I didn’t want them to grow up without a mother,” Mrs Butler said.
“They were too young to watch me die and I had so much to teach them.”
The Golden Beach woman went to her doctor in 2017 and had a “scaly” mole removed.
She was diagnosed with stage 1B melanoma but by February last year the cancer had spread to her brain.
Despite a 1.4 per cent chance of the cancer spreading, Mrs Butler was diagnosed with stage 4 melanoma in August.
“Thankfully, the treatment for melanoma has advanced significantly in the last five years, to the point where approximately 40 per cent of people with advanced melanoma can survive for longer than five years if they get the right treatment,” Mrs Butler said.
Following an arduous journey of medication, immunotherapy, radio surgery and radiation, Mrs Butler’s scans have shown the tumours are now inactive and shrinking.
“The treatment that I received at SCUH has been exceptional, with the equipment to conduct nearly all of my treatment locally,” she said.
“This is really important because travelling to Brisbane for treatment can become really problematic – you need someone to drive you there and back, or you have to relocate.”
Mrs Butler said she had “no doubt” the care she received at Sunshine Coast University Hospital saved her life.
“The staff at SCUH have been nothing but wonderful in their care for me,” she said.
“I was petrified when my husband Adrian and I arrived for my first appointment at the Adem Crosby Centre, but every time I walk into the centre now I feel at peace and protected.”
The 54-year-old shared her story to increase melanoma awareness and urged residents to not put off their annual skin check.
“Identification and treatment of early skin cancer is vital to keep people safe from the effects of advanced cancer,” she said.
“If my daughters ever get skin cancer I want the very best early detection and treatment options available to them.
“Cancer is complicated and research is essential to protecting families from the devastation that advance cancer causes.”
It comes as hospital charity Wishlist funds a $9837 research project for an Australian-first pilot study into the early treatment of skin cancer at SCUH.
Wishlist chief executive Lisa Rowe said more than $270,000 worth of funding had been directed to research projects this financial year, including the skin cancer pilot study headed by senior medical officer and SCUH head of dermatology Dr Leith Banney.
“It is vital that we continue to grow our funding commitment for research here on the Sunshine Coast and we are very excited to fund Dr Banney’s project which is comparing two treatments for early skin cancer,” she said.
“This research will hopefully find whether a specific combination cream treatment for early skin cancer lesions is more effective and better tolerated than standard skin cancer treatment.”
Wishlist’s latest project Wishlist Centre, to open next year, will offer cancer patients and others a comfortable and supportive environment for patients who are receiving ongoing medical treatment.