How you can support Australia's National Skin Check Day Feb 25th
One man’s vision to see a world free from melanoma
Australia has one of the highest rates of melanoma in the world. Despite being told to ‘slip, slop, slap’, 1700 Australians die from melanoma every year. It is the third most common cancer in both men and women. In Australia, 1 in 14 men and 1 in 24 women will be diagnosed with melanoma sometime in their life.
Jason Sprott is one of those 1 in 14 men. In 2004 he was diagnosed with melanoma. Today Jason is terminally ill with stage IV metastasis melanoma.
Jason established Mates Against Melanoma – The Jason Sprott Foundation. Their mission: to help advance the prevention & early detection of melanoma in Australia and will be looking to reduce long-term melanoma rates within a decade.
Mates Against Melanoma (MAM) are advocating for Skin Check Sessions to become the new normal in Practices and Medical Centres across Australia. Later this month on Thursday 25th Feb, Mates Against Melanoma will hold their annual day of action, Australia’s National Skin Check Day (ANSCD).
This is a cause and day for all Australians to support. We encourage all our Doctors to get behind the day and to see as many patients for skin checks on 25th Feb. You'll find all the information on how you and your practice can get involved here.
If it’s been more than 6 months since your last skin check, book an appointment and visit your GP. Tag @matesagainstmelanoma and share on Facebook & Instagram. Find out more. Know your skin, get regular skin check-ups, and encourage your mates to do the same.
In the meantime, please take the time to read Jason’s story. It will move you.
My name is Jason Sprott, I am currently 48 years old and terminally ill with stage IV metastasis melanoma. (Metastases means that the cancer has moved to a secondary location.)
In 2004 I went to see a GP about a suspicious mole that had changed colour on the back of my neck. The mole was removed and samples were sent to the lab for analysis. When I returned, he informed me it was melanoma and he was sending me to the Melanoma Diagnostic Unit at RPA hospital to see Professor William McCarthy.
During June 2015 I developed a pain in my spine which radiated to my left side rib cage, with occasional shortness of breath. In April of 2016, 2 months into a new job working as a duty manager of a licensed venue in Sydney, my pain worsened, as did shortness of breath and so I wasn’t able to work on the Sunday night shift. So, I went to see a GP on the Monday morning, he sent me straight to St Vincent’s hospital Darlinghurst Sydney where I spent the next 10 days in hospital having every test imaginable. After having a MRI on the Wednesday I was given the news, there was a spot on the spine. They weren’t sure what it was, but would be doing a lumber puncture biopsy (the 2nd most painful experience of my life), given my history they were sure it would be melanoma. Following this I had an all out blitz from specialist appointments, neurosurgeon, oncologists, radio oncologists and orthopaedic surgeons. This continues today with a brain MRI every 3 months now and PET scan every 6 to 12 months when things are well.
After I was given the diagnosis that I was terminally ill and spent 10 days in Prince of Wales Hospital, I was given spine surgery. I had my T 7 & half my T 8 vertebrae removed from my spine and a titanium cage with 2 x titanium rods 7 x 35mm titanium screws. Holding it all together are 7 x 35mm Titanium screws that they screwed into my spine at my T 5 vertebrae & again at my T 10 vertebrae. The surgeons also shaved the bone of my right side ribs which was then packed into the cage for a bone graft. It was a very long operation, as I was wheeled into the operating theatre at 7am and was wheeled out at approximately 7:30pm on Monday 23rd May 2018. It’s a day and date I will never forget, because my world was changed forever as I was placed on a disability pension.
Following the operation I had 6 weeks of physio to enable me to undergo radiation therapy to the spine area. I then started the treatment at St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney, 28 sessions in just over 5 weeks. I continued with regular checkups with orthopedic surgeon, oncologists, and GP appointments.
In May 2017, 11 months after spine surgery a routine blood test found my blood levels were very low, so I was off for an endoscopy. These tests showed an ulcerated (slowly bleeding) tumour in the top part of the stomach, and I was sent for a PET scan which didn’t show anything. Surgery was scheduled at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital (RPAH), Camperdown Sydney for Monday 13th June, when surgeons opened me up and removed the tumour they had a look around and found another tumour and remove 3cm of small intestines.
In October 2017, after having an MRI, my medical oncology team from the Melanoma Institute Australia informed me I had a tumour on the brain, so I had to go for another scan 3 days later and then there was 2 tumours. I was place on Mekinist (trametinib) & Tafinlar (dabrafenib) from Novartis Pharmaceuticals. If this medication isn’t successful they have the ability to operate to remove tumours once they increase to approximately 1cm in size.
October 2018 my tumours had increased over the previous 12 month period, my oncology team where then able to give me double immunotherapy Opdivo (nivolumab) & Yervoy (ipilimumab). These were 4 infusions every 3weeks over a 12week period. After the 4 infusions my tumours were still there and hadn’t reduced in size so on Tuesday 12th February 2019 my neurosurgeon Dr Brindha Shivalingam removed my 2 brain tumours at RPAH Camperdown Sydney, and I was discharged 23 hours later to continue my recovery from home.
Approximately six weeks later I was given the great news of being cancer clear for the first time in 17 months. In April 2019 I had my first round of immunotherapy OPDIVO (Nivolumab) home infusions. These infusions will be every two weeks for a period of 2 years and I will continue to be monitored and have scans and every 3 months.
Mates Against Melanoma-The Jason Sprott Foundation limited
Due to my condition I was able to access my superannuation’s death benefit under the terminally ill clause, I then had some hard questions to face. Once I was to set to receive my death benefit payout, what was I to do with it? I could now only just a little short of the money needed to afford double immunotherapy which could potentially increase my survival time, but once the funds would be used, they would be gone. I would have no savings and fully reliant on government handouts. I thought if I was lucky enough to live 5 years, it would be hard to survive especially with the increased cost of living, and considering the types of surgeries I have had, would see the need for extra support that I would be unable to afford.
So for me this was not an option and I decided the best way to help myself was by helping others, so I put my money in, and started Mates Against Melanoma-The Jason Sprott Foundation Limited. Our mission & purpose is to help advance the prevention & early detection of melanoma in Australia.
We are very resilient creatures and it is amazing what we can overcome, you just have to open your eyes and look around to see there is always someone worse off than you or me! I am grateful for things I do have and the things I can still do for myself. I will say it doesn’t mean I don’t have down days, but if I didn’t have the foundation I would find it difficult to get out of bed every day, this also helps me to keep things in perspective, and to realize the hardest part of this journey isn’t just on me, it's on my family and friends. Thank you all for your support especially Natasha!
One Australian dies from melanoma every 5 hours. If caught early 90 per cent of melanomas can be cured with surgery alone. Skin checks are a no brainer and that’s why the Ochre Recruitment and Ochre Health Teams are proud supporters of Mates Against Melanoma.
We urge all our amazing skin check doctors and practices to get on board and support this national day of action. By informing patients about this day and encouraging them to book in for a skin check – we are saving lives. Register your participation today.
To learn more about how you can support ANSCD 2021 as a company, doctor or individual please visit https://www.mam.org.au/anscd/