A HANDFUL of dedicated locals braved the torrential rain on Wednesday to accompany the Melanoma Institute Australia’s community coordinator Jay Allen on his fundraising march.
Local man Grant Lawrence, a stage 4 melanoma survivor and friend of Jay’s, joined the march from Valla Beach to Nambucca Heads on Wednesday, and continued the following day with Jay and the support crew to Stuarts Point.
“Feels like I've walked a million kilometres in the last two days with Jay,” Grant said.
“He is an absolute legend walking from Brisbane to Sydney.”
Grant knows all too well the importance of research into the disease after having been diagnosed in 2014. Grant is currently on Keytruda, which is one of the more recent drugs identified in the field of melanoma treatment. It is administered through immunotherapy which is also a recently identified method of treatment.
“The support from my doctors, oncologists, nurses, family, work colleagues, bowls mates and friends have helped me through the toughest battle of my life,” Grant said.
At the end of February, Grant organised a bowls fundraiser and auction day where they raised over $3000. A special dinner was held at the Nambucca Heads RSL Club where a number of cheques from local organisations were donated.
“The RSL donated $500, $200 was donated by patrons at the RSL over the past month and the Nambucca Lions Club donated $100,” Grant said.
“The town of Stuarts Point also raised $1000. Christian Diaz from the Caravan Park also helped out with free accommodation for the crew.
“Even on the walk people were driving past giving support and handing money out the windows of cars and everything.”
Jay is halfway through the Longest Melanoma March, where he and his team are walking 1200km from Brisbane to Sydney over 29 days, aiming to raise $250,000.
“It’s been awesome,” Jay said.
“Feet are feeling really good, confident now we’re going to bring this shield all the way to Sydney. It’s going to be great.
“It’s been a good, strong team effort. We’ve been sharing stories and meeting inspiring people – those who have lost family members or those who have suffered themselves.”
In 2008 Jay was diagnosed with melanoma.
“I had no idea how deadly melanoma could be,” he said.
“I was lucky my wife kept persisting that I get a mole on my left ankle checked and lucky I did because it was a melanoma 1.95mm deep and it spread to the lymph nodes in my left groin.
“I was diagnosed with stage 3 melanoma. It was life changing for myself and family.”
Jay underwent immediate surgery and treatment. Eight years on he is fighting fit — and is now fighting for another cause - to help raise awareness and find a cure for melanoma which is the number one cancer killer of Australians aged 20-39.
“I’m lucky to be alive, so now its time to give back to Melanoma Institute Australia who saved my life,” he said.
“I’ve got many friends who are right now fighting to stay alive.
“I want to walk and show them we need to get a cure for this disease.
Every single dollar raised will help Melanoma Institute Australia fund vital research to find a cure for melanoma.
So far Jay and his team have raised around $145,000.
“Please dig deep for this great cause and help change the future for thousands of Australians diagnosed with melanoma each year. If it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone. Let’s work together to end melanoma,” Jay said.