Adam’s story

Adam is marching because he wants to survive

‘It’s been happening for over six years and we haven’t let it get the better of us. You’ve got to live your life, right? You can’t just stop.’

Adam Brown had a primary melanoma removed from his back in 2013. Later that year, melanoma was found in his lymph nodes. He then had a bilateral lymph node dissection and was given the all clear.

It was nine months later when Kristy, Adam’s fiancée at the time (now wife), noticed a lump near his surgical scar.

‘We kind of knew what it was but we tried to dismiss the worry. I went in for the appointment and we thought it might just be this lump, but the PET scan showed that it had already reached the lung,’ recalls Adam.

Kristy was eight months pregnant with their first child.

‘You know, you’re told that the cancer has spread and we’re just about to have our first baby - we all sort of fell apart, the whole family.’

Adam was referred to MIA Co-Medical Director Professor Georgina Long. Adam was eligible for a clinical trial about to open, using a combination of two kinds of immunotherapy.

While waiting for the trial to open, Adam and Kristy became parents for the first time.

‘Harry came two weeks early,’ Adam remembers with a smile. ‘We all probably needed that, some positivity and a really good distraction for everyone.’

When the clinical trial opened, Adam was patient 001. The trial combined the immunotherapies pembrolizumab and ipilimumab.

‘The first scans showed 50% reduction in tumours. We were ecstatic. The drugs started to work so quickly and the tumours kept on reducing. It was so positive and encouraging,’ Adam says.

‘There was so much hope. And that means everything.’

Adam was on treatment for two years until he was given the all clear again.

‘The side effects were so minimal and manageable; I’ve been very lucky. It’s never impacted me physically, never made me sick. No one looking at me would think I have cancer. Sometimes, it’s easy to forget. It’s always in the back of your mind, but I found it easy to say ‘ok that’s done now’ and put it behind me.’

Almost immediately after Adam was told he was free of melanoma, his younger brother Josh was diagnosed with cancer that had already spread to his lungs, liver and spine. Adam spent much of his time with his brother, away from home and his newborn baby Gracie. After twelve months of gruelling chemotherapy, Josh passed away at the age of 32.

‘It was so much harder to watch my brother. I feel very guilty that I’ve been saved multiple times over and my younger brother, who didn’t get to do anywhere near what I’ve been able to do with my life, isn’t here anymore. It doesn’t make sense.

‘Essentially, we’ve had a miracle in our family, and the complete opposite.’

But Adam’s melanoma journey wasn’t over. In February 2019, a routine scan found melanoma in his brain.

‘Initially I thought there is nothing more they can do. That was where the most anxiety came from. Harry was old enough to know that his dad wasn’t coming back and Kristy would have to raise the kids by herself. It was a lot to try and process. I felt guilty. I couldn’t imagine getting sicker and sicker and having the kids have to watch that and try and explain it to them.

But amazingly, Professor Long said the immunotherapy still had a good chance of working.’

Adam had surgery to remove his brain metastasis and is now back on immunotherapy.

‘It’s never a good time to be diagnosed with melanoma but I’ve been very lucky,’ says Adam. ‘Not very long ago I wouldn’t have had the options that I have today. Immunotherapy didn’t exist 10 years ago. We feel blessed in a way, the timing of it all.

‘There’s been sometimes where it’s felt like this is the end of the road. There are times when I tell Kristy it’s not fair. I’m not invincible. But for me it’s just become better and better. Unfortunately for other people it’s just not the same - it gets tougher and tougher.’

Adam and Kristy have attended Melanoma March for years now.

‘I’ve seen and experienced a lot of positive things I wouldn’t have otherwise. Kristy’s the one who gets the momentum going and gets people to do things. We had a massive amount of people coming to Manly for us that first year, and my entire company went to Melanoma March Melbourne for me.

‘It’s emotional. You see the best in people you don’t even know. There are people who are in the midst of their battle and it can be a difficult thing to do but they do it.

‘We’ve always felt so looked after by MIA. Melanoma March is easy to do but makes a hell of a difference to what MIA is trying to achieve.

‘We’ll be there every year. It will always be something that’s important to us,’ he says.

And from Kristy, ‘Melanoma March is a way for us to celebrate what’s happened with Adam, and to raise funds for MIA because without funds they can’t do the research and without research they can’t save lives.

‘You’ve got to keep things in perspective, and the small things don’t necessarily matter as much as we think they do. We often ground ourselves and say ‘no, that doesn’t actually matter, what does matter is that we are together and that we’ve got each other’. We don’t know what the future holds, so we just try to live a full life - which we’ve done.’