Melanoma march funds vital research
JENNIFER Thulborn was aged 30 and pregnant with her second daughter when she discovered a black mole in the middle of her shoulder blades.
That was the start of a 23-year battle against melanoma.
"When my daughter was 12 weeks old, a female doctor said, 'get it off straight away, it looks like a melanoma'.
"I had 100 stitches in my back from a tiny mole. I had like a shark bite in my back.
"The cancer went to 1.5mm deep. I went and saw an oncologist and he said, 'live your life as normal'.
"At 47, I'd just got back from my honeymoon - my second marriage - and I was getting spots in front of my eyes. I was feeling a bit giddy sometimes and started to get headaches.”
On this occasion, Jenny was treated for migraine and sent for a CT scan to rule out anything more serious.
"I got a call from the doctor and she said, 'you need to come back straight away and see me, and you need to call your husband to come too',” Jenny said.
"We've found something in your brain. We don't know what it is but we have to get you to hospital.
"I had a 39mm brain tumour. Had it been left a week more, I could have been dead ... and life just changed.
"I had brain surgery to remove the tumour, and had a tumour in my lung also.
"I had another two brain tumours. I've had eight brain tumours altogether and three brain surgeries.”
Side effects from the drugs Jenny was taking were harsh, including the impairment of cognitive skills and pneumonitis in the lungs.
The 53-year-old has been unable to work for the past six years.
On March 26, she'll be lining up to walk in the Melanoma March Coolangatta, a fun community event where participants can walk or march along a short course to raise awareness about melanoma and funds for life-changing research.
"I started the first walk with my husband Tony Van De Wakker, which would've been four years ago,” Jenny said.
"The first one was held at Seagulls Club. The club takes registrations on the day and they donate money.
"We're now stepping back from hosting but still helping out.
"I go in the walk, and I'm still involved in spreading the word about melanoma prevention and research.
"My whole life in the last six years has been involved with fundraising for the Melanoma Institute to help with research.”
At the moment, Jenny is showing no signs of melanoma.
"I'm grateful I'm still here to see milestones of my four children,” she says.
"New treatments and drug trials - thanks to important fundraising such as March for Melanoma - are prolonging many lives and getting us closer to finding a cure.”
South-east Queensland has one of the highest rates of melanoma diagnosis in the country with nearly 3000 people diagnosed each year.
Melanoma March Coolangatta will take place at The Strand on Sunday, March 26, from 6.30am to 10am.
Register at melanomamarch.org.au.