My brother was 47 years old. He was married to his gorgeous wife with Dexter (the dog) and between them they had created an amazing business that employed 50+ staff in Christchurch.
Growing up we used to go on family holidays to sunny Nelson and our days were spent out in the sun at one of our favourite spots – Rabbit Island. Sunscreen of the day was either baby oil or Coppertone. We never thought anything about skin cancer or Melanoma. We were just kids who enjoyed playing out in the sun and thought nothing of getting burnt as we knew that eventually we would get a tan.
In Feb 2015 whilst on holiday, Andrew's wife noticed that things were not quite right with his brain function. They came home early and immediately went to his GP. The GP ordered a CT scan of his brain – that was Thursday 12th February. The very next day my brother’s life as he knew it stopped with that one dreaded phone call from his GP. He was immediately admitted into Christchurch Public hospital with swelling on the brain and the results of the CT scan initially showed three tumours in the brain. So began a lengthy series of medical investigations...
- Biopsy’s – found a small shadow in the lung initially
- PET Scan
- Brain surgery to remove two of the three tumours
All of these tests took about 6 weeks before the medical staff finally came up with a diagnosis – Melanoma. So, what next? My brother was initially given a 5-year prognosis but that of course depended on his DNA profile and if he could seek suitable treatment.
It was now late March 2015. A month later he was admitted into hospital again with blinding headaches. His medication was reassessed and they ordered another MRI. The result of this MRI showed that the Melanoma had spread and was “everywhere”. His prognosis from this dropped down to 3-6 months.
He continued to take medication to control his headaches and the swelling in the brain. The medical staff booked him in to undertake radiation post brain surgery. He undertook 10 treatments of this during May 2015. The usual side effects occurred with radiation including hair loss. Once the radiation was done. It was decided that there was nothing more that could be done including any of the drug treatments that were available at the time. This was now late May 2015. On two occasions he was admitted into hospice for palliative care. My brother to me seemed so brave and faced everything front on. He continued to work when he could but as time went on he got more and more tired. Later in July he had his last visit into hospice to yet again control his headaches and pain levels. When he was sent home, he had a little bit of “wheezing” in the chest. The doctor was questioned if this was pneumonia? She said no, but somehow, we all seemed to know that it was the start of the end. I remember him saying that “I will be around for Christmas”. The doctor replied “it is good to remain positive!”. Andrew went home.
You know that one thing I learnt from watching my brother’s determination is that the mind can be a powerful weapon. We all knew that he still had some unfinished things and one of them was to be around to celebrate his wife’s birthday on July 30th. A week later on the 7th August 2015, Andrew passed away peacefully surrounded by his wife and his dog – Dexter. He was 48 years old. From the first admission into hospital to when he died it was 26 weeks!! He gave it everything to fight Melanoma but it was just too aggressive and fast. In the end, the most ironic thing from this was that they never found his primary source.