Pictures from Wollongong’s Melanoma March

You don’t have to spend your life working outside to get skin cancer, warns one melanoma survivor.

Josh Drover was one of hundreds who took part in the Melanoma March along North Wollongong to raise money and awareness for the disease, which affects 14,000 Australians every year.

Mr Drover was one of those statistics three-and-a-half years ago after being diagnosed with Stage IV melanoma, despite working mostly indoors.

“That’s something people always ask me,” he said. “However I’ve worked inside for the last 10 years.”

Mr Drover said the original diagnosis was “pretty grim” but thanks to clinical trials through the Melanoma Institute of Australia (MIA) he was now cancer free.

He and his wife Michelle recently welcomed a daughter into the world and named her Mia after the experience. Many people who undergo cancer treatment are unable to have children as a side effect.

Anne Clarke was the organiser of the Wollongong event this year, with herself and six other siblings marching – including her brother Paul Cooney who was currently undergoing a second clinical trial with MIA.

Mr Cooney was diagnosed with Stage IV in November 2015 with a life expectancy of two month.

His sister said it was wonderful he was still with them today and was proud her family, and the greater Wollongong community, were marching in support.

“It’s a brush with death. I’m still sick and it’s not going to be a miracle but I do have two extra years with my family and everyone – that’s a blessing,” Mr Cooney said.

“I’m about to go on a new clinical trial and who knows, maybe that’s the one that’ll do the trick for me.”

The march is now in its seventh year with funds raised from the 2018 event supporting the Big Data for Melanoma project which is creating a critical register to record the treatment and outcomes of patients with melanoma.

“While recent melanoma research breakthroughs have tripled life expectancy for some advanced melanoma patients, melanoma continues to be the most common cancer affecting 15 to 39-year-olds and kills more young Australians aged 20 to 39 than any other cancer,” MIA CEO Carole Renouf said.

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