New cancer drug gives ‘great hope’, says melanoma patient

Navan woman, 34, says nivolumab offers hope for ‘unpredictable’ cancer

 

Sarah Lane (34), who lives in Navan, Co Meath, was diagnosed with stage two melanoma in May last year, shortly after the birth of her son, Joe.

Five or six months into the pregnancy she had found a “spot” on her back and was initially told by doctors it was “nothing to worry about”. It was still there after she had the baby and was “getting itchy”.

“It was nearly like a Rice Krispie, there was no colour in it so it wasn’t like a freckle.”

During her six-week check-up, she pointed out the spot to another doctor who “didn’t like it at all”. There was an eight-week wait for a dermatologist appointment, but the doctor removed the spot in the meantime and sent it for tests.

“Four weeks later he rang me to say that it wasn’t good news [and that it was] melanoma,” Lane says.

She has since had several surgeries, including another piece taken out of her back, and lymph glands removed from her left armpit. She was initally treated with Interferon but she later found another lump under her armpit, and nine more tumours were removed. Her doctor in Beaumont Hospital put her on the drug ipilimumab but, she said, two months ago “I had another dissection and it was melanoma as well”.

Lane cannot have her next ipilimumab infusion until she has completed the last two weeks of a six-week course of radiation, later this month.

She would like to have the option of treatment with nivolumab open to her, depending on what her oncologist decides are the next steps for her treatment.

“You get great hope from listening to the stories. I don’t know loads about it but I know it works very well together in combination [with ipilimumab]. Obviously it wasn’t offered in Ireland so I couldn’t get that. But if it had gone to another organ maybe I could have.

“I’d like to know that it’s there for me if I needed it because the way melanoma is, it’s just so unpredictable. To know that it’s there it’s like a comfort blanket.”

She gets support, she says, from her partner, mother and sister who help her to look after her three children.

Joe, who is now 19 months, is “my little rock”, she says. “He saved my life. I always think that when I was pregnant it brought it out of me. If I didn’t have him I don’t know where I would be.”

“I try and stay as positive as I can,” she adds. “I try not to let it get in on me.”