Melanoma survivor walks with her saviour

Associate Professor for the Melanoma Institute Australia Jonathan Stretch, The Longest Melanoma March organiser Jay Allen and Melanoma survivor Renee Marchment.

Associate Professor for the Melanoma Institute Australia Jonathan Stretch, The Longest Melanoma March organiser Jay Allen and Melanoma survivor Renee Marchment.

Renee Marchment’s world was rocked when she was diagnosed with melanoma at the young age of 24.

Twelve years after her surgery, Mrs Marchment is fighting fit. On Saturday she took part in Jay Allen’s, The Longest Melanoma March.

Mrs Marchment’s walk was made special as she did something she “never, ever thought she would be able to do” and walked alongside the man who saved her life.

“My surgeon, MIA’s Associate Professor, Jonathan Stretch, made the trip from Sydney to join us. It was truly special and very emotional,” Mrs Marchment said.

“I will always be able to cherish that time; I have so much respect and admiration for him. He is so passionate about stopping Australia’s national cancer in its tracks.”

Mr Stretch is the Associate Professor for the Melanoma Institute Australia. He removed the tumour from Mrs Marchment’s leg along with 15 lymph nodes from her groin in January 2005. This surgery was filmed by 60 Minutes for the “Dying for a Tan” story.

“My brother, sister-in-law and their children were able to meet the man who saved my life,” she said.

“It was really lovely to have them there alongside my husband and daughter,” she said.

Mr Allen, MIA’s Community Coordinator, has raised $153,639.84 and is walking from Brisbane to Sydney to raise awareness for the disease he was diagnosed with at age 32.

“It is something that I will never forget. I am really proud to have been a part of this wonderful awareness fundraiser. To do it alongside my surgeon is truly remarkable,” Mrs Marchment said.

“People stopped us on our walk to donate money, share stories and tell us what a great job we were doing and how grateful they were of our efforts.”

The group began the Kempsey to Port Macquarie leg of their journey on Saturday at 6.15am at the Crescent Head turnoff. They walked along Crescent Head road into the Crescent Head village and then out to Maria River road on their way to Port Macquarie.

It was a long trip with the weather conditions an obstacle.

“We were tested with quite a lot of heavy rain and strong winds. In comparison to what I have been through and what others are going through – it was nothing.”

Mrs Marchment relocated from Terrigal on the Central Coast to Crescent Head in 2001.

Three years later and 10 weeks after giving birth to her daughter, Shae-ala, she was given the news no one wants to hear – she had melanoma skin cancer and only 40-60% chance of survival.

“I felt rocked at first, speechless. I was lucky though to receive a lot of support from our friends and family,” Mrs Marchment said.

“I had a newborn baby and I had no choice, I couldn’t curl up in a ball and cry. I had to push through it and I can’t think of anything that would give you more willpower to live than your own child and the love and support of your husband.

“You don’t think it will ever happen to you, especially at a young age. Unfortunately, this is the attitude that has to change as Melanoma kills more young Australians (20-39 year olds) than any other single cancer.”

Melanoma is a familiar word to most Australians. But it’s only when melanoma directly impacts our lives that we begin to understand the seriousness of this type of skin cancer.

“We have to fight back. Once you have been touched by cancer, the fear never leaves you. The awareness is growing because of initiatives like this, the fundraising is helping to increase awareness and fund trials to find a cure. This gives us a lot of hope.”

Mrs Marchment, her surgeon, Jay Allen and her family attended a function to raise funds for Melanoma at Wauchope on Saturday night. This was another successful fundraising campaign from a current patient at the MIA.

Melanoma is the most common cancer in young Australians (15-39 year olds), which makes up 20% of all their cancer cases.

Incidence for people over the age 60 is also very high and increasing.

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