Sharyn Geoghegan, 49 years old from Cairns Queensland, was diagnosed with metastatic melanoma in May 2013. Now my Mum, Sharyn, isn't a confident writer and wishes to share her story with other sufferers of this disease so myself (her daughter), is going to achieve just that for her.
My Mum has always been the caring, loving, fun, beautiful natured and kind hearted person to absolutely everyone that surrounds her. My childhood memories of my Mum bring me so much happiness just thinking about them. To Mum, she never had a real full time job, however her job to me was looking after my older sister Sarah, myself, my younger brother Michael and of course my Father, Ken. Thanks to our Dad, Mum had so much time to look after us kids growing up and I believe this is why I am who I am today. Mum could and still can always sense when something is upsetting you or when something isn't right. I love that about her. Mum loved being a Mum so much that when I was about 14 she decided to start fostering children. This just proves how much of a beautiful woman she is. Taking kids who have no home into her home is an incredible thing to do. Still to this day my Mum has regular visits and stays from her most memorable child from fostering, Kaif, and also his brother, Jacque. Mum had looked after Kaif since he was just a week old, he is now 11 years old and is a huge part of not only Mums, but my whole families'. My point I want to get across is how admirable my Mum is. I want to share her story so not only other people can be inspired by her but also so she can realise how much of an amazing human being she is.
Mum's first signs of sickness started with a skin cancer on her stomach in 2009. Mum had this removed leaving quite a large but quite unnoticeable scar just below her chest. It was a relief once removed though little did we know what would be happening to this very day. In 2011 at one of her regular check ups Mum let her Dr know she had felt a lump under her right arm and sure enough it was cancerous. Mum required an operation where they removed the lymph gland. Mum was quite sick after this operation, though the cancer removal was successful and the lump was gone. Mum also received a trial drug which was an injection that she gave herself, however this made her very ill and the Dr's ceased the treatment. We were all so relieved and happy Mum appeared cancer free.
Early last year Mum would often call me complaining of a sore knee. I can remember her being in tears about this numerous times. I would say to her "go to the Dr's Mum" and she said she had been and he said it was most likely a DVT (deep vein thrombosis) and put her on medication. The pain got so bad Mum demanded to have scans done as the pain wasn't bearable anymore. Her Dr flew her to Brisbane to meet with an Orthopaedic Specialist as they thought the lump behind her knee was a Sarcoma. I remember the day so clearly. Dad couldn't call me because he was so upset. I knew something wasn't right. Lucky enough, my sister was with me in Melbourne taking a holiday. She visited me at work and told me the news that Mums melanoma had not only spread to behind her knee but also to 5 other areas throughout her body. I, along with my whole family, could not believe what we were told. Hasn't our Mum been through enough? It was a rough few months for everyone. It is hard to comprehend that your Mum, the most important person in a girl’s life, has cancer attacking her body and there is nothing we can do to fix it except pray and put all our positive energy into her.
So the oncologist in Cairns started Mum on a course of Yervoy (Ipilimumab). Yervoy, a new type of melanoma treatment that was released to the public system on 1st of August 2013. So luckily enough by the time Mum was diagnosed wasn't going to cost an arm and a leg. Little did we know when she started the treatment though, it almost cost her her life. Once Mums session
s of Yervoy treatment was over. Mum had a chemical reaction to the Yervoy. The reaction caused Hepatitis in the liver with her liver enzyme count reaching 7200 resulting in a near death experience. I received a call from my sister again telling me to get on the next available plane as Mums Dr explained she only has 48 hours to live. I couldn't get my head around what I just heard. I thought there is no way my Mum is leaving me behind on this Earth. It was surreal. I thought it was like something out of a movie. You really don't think anything like this could happen to your loved ones, I now know anything is possible.
I arrived in Cairns and my family and I didn't leave Mum's side. Mum had to go through another treatment of ATGAM sent up from Brisbane that amazingly a Cairns Base Hospital Pharmaceutical Representative under so much pressure found an article that suggested this drug and it was confirmed by a Melanoma Specialist from the Melanoma Institute of Australia Sydney to help settle Mums liver enzyme levels down. They were abnormally and dangerously high requiring this specific treatment. We were all on edge, waiting, waiting, hoping this drug would fix our beautiful Mum. Not surprisingly Mum was the strongest of us all at this time. We are an extremely close family so seeing a member of our family so sick broke our hearts. Staying together, being there for each other and the positive energy surrounding us is what got Mum through the 48 hours. Her body accepted this drug and after days her liver enzymes kept dropping and dropping. Every time we got advised those numbers had dropped was the best feeling in the world for us.
Mums liver enzymes finally lowered to the normal range and her immune system repaired itself and Mum was able to go home after 10 days. Mum loved the hospital. Not because of her sickness but because of the friendly team she had behind her and the amazing people she met whilst in hospital experiencing similar sicknesses to herself. I guess we don't understand until we are in someone's shoes with cancer how nice it is to talk to people going through the same ordeal. That always brightened up Mums day. Her caring personality yet again coming out.
Waiting, waiting, waiting. I, along with my family, feel like all we do is wait for the results. It's the hardest not knowing. With cancer I now understand there is no answer or quick fix. I used to see and hear people going through cancer and felt so upset that I would be in tears and I don't even know them. So seeing my Mum go through the exact same thing is unbelievable. It has been the hardest and most horrible times of mine and my families lives. I still can't believe it. It doesn't feel real. I guess I don't want to believe it either because I know Mum is going to get through this.
After the Yervoy treatment Mum had her next big PET scan and amazingly out of 6 tumours, 3 had gone. This was great news for all however not the best news with still 3 remaining.
The next stage was figuring out a treatment to target the 3 spots. The Dr's suggested Mum meets with the Oncologists at the Melanoma Institute of Australia in Sydney to discuss the chance of being accepted to go on a trial drug. Again, waiting patiently to hear the plan is all we could do.
Unfortunately while waiting for the answer Mum started to experience pain in her stomach. She thought it may have been from the steroids she was on. Mum being quite stubborn fought the pain up until it was unbearable. My Dad took her to ED, where she has become quite famous, to get the Dr's to check her. Mum had yet another scan while she was there and to our shock one of the three spots had grown quite significantly to 6cm near her adrenal gland causing the sharp pains in her stomach. The pains were from the large lesion pushing on her internal organs. I wish I could take away the pain. Mum then commence radiation treatment in May 2024 which is now finished. Mum then commenced radiation treatment in May 2014 which is now finished. She has been able to reduce the pain killing tablets significantly as the codeine caused other issues for her. Mum now has additional meetings with the Oncologists at the Melanoma Institute of Australia in Sydney this month to discuss the commencement of commencing a trial with the latest drug available.
I flew home only last weekend to spend the weekend with Mum. My Dad and I had a discussion about pain. We realise you can't control the pain cancer gives a person as it is an evil disease but it is extremely hard seeing them go through this disease suffering the pain not only mentally but now also physically. The pains are reminding her she is sick. I wish I could take away that pain for her and I know my Dad, brother and sister do too.
Spending the weekend with my Mum was the best feeling in the world. I arrived and lay in bed with her sobbing in my arms. It was the exact sob I have when I cry to my boyfriend. It is a cry like you are a child and you can't control the tears.
Mum is really weak at this stage. While I was home one morning Mum called out to Dad and I and was in tears because her bones and joints were aching. This was a new feeling for her. She described it like she had done a huge workout the day before.
We had a Pastor come around and pray for Mum while I was home and I feel as though this helped us a lot. Especially Mum, to help change her way of thinking. She has been the lost strong, admirable, beautiful and courageous woman throughout this whole process. I know she doesn't think she has been but we all know she has.
For now it is a waiting game. Mum has been selected to have the newest treatment for melanoma - one of the very first patients in Australia to have been selected to undergo this form of treatment and we feel so grateful however there are many risks involved with what happened with her liver on the Yervoy. We pray this will help cure Mum in any possible way.
Mums story needs to be told and I hope this story will inspire others to hold on to hope and to love your family and hold their hand throughout processes like these. I know my Mum wants her story told, it deserves to be shared with other sufferers and their families.