I joined a clinical trial because I was referred by my specialist. My cancer — melanoma — had metastasised and spread to my lymph glands, and my doctor thought a clinical trial was the best next step in treatment for me. I had already had radiotherapy, and chemotherapy offered little chance of success for my type of cancer. My specialist knew about this drug trial and recommended I go and talk to the team at Prince of Wales Hospital.
The trial had a very strict protocol for participants. I went through a range of tests, including CT, MRI, heart echo and PET scans. This was to pinpoint where the cancer was in my body, and also to make sure I didn’t have any other underlying medical conditions.
Once it was determined I was suitable for the trial, I started treatment. I had weekly visits to the hospital for seven weeks, then the time between visits gradually extended until now they are every four or eight weeks.
I have now had cancer for around nine years, and have been on the trial for two years.
The trial has been great. The best thing about it is that I’m still alive! The trial drug seems to be working very well. The trial has given me a chance to find something that works for me, and that I hope will also be of help to others.
The other great thing about the trial has been the people at POWH. They have just been fantastic. I can ring them any time, day or night, if I have a question or a worry. As well as being very professional, they are supportive, friendly and caring. I feel as if they are a second family for me in Sydney.
While the tests and visits can be an inconvenience, especially since I have to travel from Wagga Wagga to Sydney, the staff go out of their way to make it as convenient as possible for me, arranging appointments and travel times that best suit me and that minimise the time I need to be away from home.
There has also been no cost to me, or even to the Australian government, for my treatment. The drug company funds all the treatment costs as well as my flights to and from Sydney.
For people thinking of going in a clinical trial I would say ‘do it’. You have nothing to lose. Listen to your doctor and specialist — they are not going to recommend something that is not in your best interest.
If you are unfortunate enough to have a condition that needs treatment, a clinical trial can help. Or if you are in a family with a history of breast cancer or any of the many diseases and conditions out there, you can help yourself and other families like you. The person you help might be your child, your brother or sister, your niece or nephew.