Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer, taking the lives of more than one thousand Canadians last year. However, what used to be a disease with limited treatment is now treatable through advance research opportunities.
Mike Allan from Prince George was diagnosed with Melanoma in 2007. With no other information on the skin disease, he knew his fate was an untimely death. “The only thing I could find was that everybody dies and there was no cure, nothing. And it was a lonely place to be,” he said.
Just a few years later in the Spring of 2011, Allan was on his death bed. “I was entered into Hospice House, that was the end of my journey and there was no more,” Allan said. “I was on a lot of drugs at the time, couldn’t even say my name, I could hardly even breathe, I had a tumour growing in my chest that was the size of a baseball.”
Despite the hardship, Allan and his family wouldn’t give up that easily. A gene mutation trial in Edmonton was his last chance of survival and within two weeks, he was breathing on his own again. In fact, advanced research opportunities have come a long way for treating Melanoma.
Medical Oncologist with the BC Cancer Agency in Prince George, Dr. Christian Fibich, says there’s a couple of different ways to treat Melanoma. The first being a targeted treatment where small molecules inhibit its growth. “If the immune system has recognized the cancer once, it often is able to put the tumour or the melanoma into remission for a long time, in some cases even five to ten years.”
Meanwhile, immune-based treatments are now available through Northern Health to better recognize cancer cells and destroy them. “If the immune system has recognized the cancer once, it often is able to put the melanoma into remission for a long time, in some cases five or even ten years,” Fibich said.
Although, sometimes the best way to survive is through a strong support system. Allan traveled to Edmonton for treatment every three weeks for four years, sharing pictures as part of the Save Your Skin Foundation’s ‘Melanoma Through My Lens’ campaign.
Founder of the Save Your Skin Foundation, Kathy Barnard, says it’s bringing survivors of the skin disease closer together. “This is our chance to talk about our journey, because even though our journeys are different, they’re very similar and we thought the best way to do it was really through the lens of the patient.”
Allan now has no evidence of Melanoma, but still receives ongoing treatment. “Pretty much every day when I wake up, I am reminded that I am a melanoma patient,” he said. “The good news now is that there is hope.”
Photo Courtesy: Mike Allan/ Save Your Skin Foundation