Melanoma patient Liam Wallington shares his experience of participating in a clinical trial.
I was diagnosed with melanoma in 2012. Melanoma doesn’t run in my family: there’s no history of it. The tumour that I had wasn’t a mole, it wasn’t a freckle, it wasn’t all those things you have to look out for. It was just a lump. I went to a GP – he wasn’t concerned. I asked for a referral to a dermatologist who said I had nothing to worry about. It was just one of those things – a rare type of melanoma.
At that time I had no secondaries. I had my annual scan in July 2012 and then in my 2013 annual scan they found secondaries in my pancreas and liver. From that point I was referred to medical oncologist Dr Catriona McNeil, my current doctor at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse. Catriona discussed the various options for treatment at that point and for melanoma there weren’t many available. She was aware of a trial that was about to open which was comparing a couple of new drugs for melanoma.
The trial opened a few months later and I commenced my first treatment on 29 September 2013. Since that time, I’ve just been on the trial which involves treatment every second week, scans every six weeks and regular bloods and medical appointments.
The trial experience has been great. It’s all very organised. People look after you well; they’re good at explaining processes to you: what’s going to happen, when it’s going to happen, how it’s going to happen. There’s good communication, and that goes for the doctors, the nurses and the reception staff. There’s a lot of respect and care to ensure you know what’s going on, and you’re looked after, really well. They’re good: the nurses are great. The Arterie volunteers have been trying to get me to knit and have given me a little man kit. Things like that change the atmosphere in the place. They lighten the atmosphere.
Catriona is in charge of my care and my participation in this study and she’s been fantastic. At every level you get the right information and support. You’re involved in the decision making about what happens. You consent to what you’re involved in at every step. You give that consent if you’re comfortable with it, so you’re very much in control of the process.
It’s quite remarkable this change in treatment for melanoma. I’m very fortunate to have been in the right place at the right time. There are always a lot of unknowns with your diagnosis. Things about work – how long can I work for, should I stay at work, should I leave work. Being on the trial has enabled me to stay at work, to remain well and to have pretty much a normal life. The prognosis in July last year was probably six months, so the drugs I’m receiving in this trial are basically keeping me alive.