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Jeffrey Paterson

Open Letter to the Prime Minister

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Dear Mr. Prime Minister. I am sick. But I can’t afford to be.

I was born with a BRAF gene Mutation, which means like my mum, aunties, siblings and cousins, puts me at high risk. I have done everything I can do, I get regular mole maps and have sunblock on prescription. I have had Melanoma Cancer since I was sixteen.  I have had 45 Lymph nodes taken from my neck and my arm. I have had five tumours surgically removed. I have had two brain tumours and surgeries within six weeks of one another. I have scans for new tumours every month. I have been in hospital more than your average ninety year old. I have four in-operable tumours on my lungs. Keytruda could be my saving grace.  I am sick, BUT I can’t afford to be.

Dear Mr. Pharmac. I am strong. But I can’t afford to be.

I tell the people around me every day not to worry. I am strong because I have to be. I have a huge group of family and friends supporting me, and I support them. I refuse to believe that I will be one of the 300 New Zealanders that die of melanoma every year. I graduated high school, have a bachelor of Architecture, and am mid-way through my Masters, all while battling metastatic cancer. I am twenty two years old. I am here, I am alive. But only just. The longer I live, the more money I need. I am strong, BUT I can’t afford to be.

Dear Mr. Drug Company. I am poor. But I can’t afford to be.

My treatments cost ten thousand dollars every four weeks. Even  more, once I start Keytruda. I don’t understand why. Is that what it is supposed to be worth to you, or to me? Is it for profit?  Is it because I am just a number in your system? A barcode on a patient in the hospital? Am I anonymous? I should not be anonymous. I have a name, I have passions, I surf, I play the guitar and hockey, I draw. I am in my second to final year at university, and have negative dollars to my name. If I live, will I not pay back my worth? I am poor, BUT I can’t afford to be.

Dear Mr. Prime Minister, Mr. Pharmac, Mr. Drug Company…

You can help me. BUT you are caught up in a web of money and politics. I don’t know who should be held accountable, but it seems this blame-game has been going on long enough.

Dear Mr. Joe Bloggs.  I am Sick, I am Strong, but I am no longer poor.

Thank you for your donation. You don’t have much, in fact, the less you have, the more you give. You have given me what money shouldn’t be able to buy… Time. You have given me what my life shouldn’t have to cost… Your time. You have fundraised, dropped flyers in letter boxes and donated to my givealittle page. You have pro-longed my life for at least eight months, and I am grateful. BUT it shouldn’t be up to you to save my life.

Dear Mr. Prime Minister, Mr. Pharmac, Mr. Drug Company…

It’s not just my life that is worth saving. Eleven people are diagnosed with invasive Melanoma every day in New Zealand… She could be your Sister. He could be your Father. They could be the one person you love more than anything in the world. Is that person worth saving?

I just have one question for you though, and it’s a hard one. What is the bounty on your life?

– Jeffrey Paterson.
For further details, please visit Jeff’s ‘Give a Little’ page here: https://givealittle.co.nz/cause/rise4patt

Jeff-hosp2My Journey

My Brief Story – Stage 4 Melanoma Cancer

It all started when I was 16 years old. I noticed a mole on my right forearm was peeling. Due to my strong family history with Melanoma, it was checked. Consequently it was removed and the results came back as a malignant mole (positive for Melanoma). Further surgery had to take place to increase the margins to ensure that the cancer would not spread.

I continued to have regular check up’s, and if any suspicious looking moles were discovered I had them removed.

It wasn’t until March 2014 when a mole had changed in the centre of my upper back that things started to get more serious. This mole was taken out and this came back as a very aggressive melanoma. A wider excision to increase the margins was then done in April 2014.

It was then recommended by my specialist that they wanted to check to make sure that the melanoma had not spread into my lymph nodes, so a biopsy of my sentinel neck lymph nodes was done. Unfortunately it had spread to my right neck lymph nodes, meaning I had to undergo further surgery to remove the nodes. This surgery happened in May 2014, 3 days after my 21st birthday.

A year later, just after my 22nd birthday, and a day after celebrating my graduation of attaining my Bachelor of Architecture, I found lump in my right armpit the size of a Jaffa. Within a few weeks I underwent surgery again. I had 32 lymph nodes removed from under my arm and 2 of these came back positive for melanoma.

I was now finally getting back to normality, continuing to study my Masters of Architecture and slowing increasing exercise. I was one assignment shy of catching up to the rest of the year group, when I started getting headaches and episodes of emotional extremes. I heard voices in my head, which brought feelings of ‘déjà vu’ and heightened my emotions. I laughed at these episodes to begin with, but after 3 weeks of having them they became more sinister. I now doubted the fact they were caused by lack of sleep and stress as they distorted my peripheral vision, hearing and ability to speak sentences.

So I went to emergency, they took me in for a CT scan. They told me that I had a brain tumour! It was located in my left temporal lobe and was the size of a golf ball. Knowing my history we assumed it was secondary Melanoma.

After a few delays, I went underwent brain surgery to have the tumour removed on September 2nd 2015, the results came back positive as a metastatic melanoma.

The surgery was successful, and the recovery was going well, but a hiccup came along, as a post-surgery scan had discovered there was a tumour just under my glutes (which was a pain in the ass haha). I had that removed with large margins.

So considering all this, my recovery was going good. I was just about to start radiation, but then I started experiencing seizures again, this time they lasted longer and were like nightmares. I headed back to emergency where more CT scans were made. It was another brain tumour in the same place! This time it was bigger, adding pressure to my left eye forcing it closed.

I underwent brain surgery for the second time on 16th October 2015. This time I only had 22 staples compared to the 33 I got last time. But I still have titanium plates holding my skull together which will remain there.

So the second brain surgery was over and all the appropriate scans had been done. Just before being discharged from hospital, they gave me the results. The news was not good. Although the brain surgery had went well, they had found 4 inoperable tumours, this time in my lungs. 3 in the left lung and 1 in the right lung, ranging in size from 1mm to 5mm. Although this is news that words do not have the capacity to describe, I was happy that I was going home.

It was 12 days after neuro surgery that I started the radiation to my brain. For 12 sessions, spanning over 2 weeks I was clamped down to a table by a moulded face mask receiving the radioactive rays which were hopefully destroying any left-over cancer cells.

I also had appointments with my medical oncologists to discuss treatment options for inoperable tumours and any possible future growths. My medical oncology team explained that my only fighting chance would be with BRAF Inhibitors and Keytruda. As these drugs work with your immune system shrinking and destroying the tumours. But these drugs come at a very high price. $10.000 to $11,000 every 4 weeks for BRAF and roughly the same every 3 weeks for Keytruda.

So here I am forced to fundraise, with family and friends. No doubt that this has been fun! But I worry about the people who are in a similar situation to me and cannot fundraise due to declining health.

I want to get back to architecture, I want to continue surfing, I want to continue playing guitar, I want kids one day. But I and many others need the opportunity to fight melanoma cancer.

Keytruda is a “low priority”. Try standing a day in my shoes.

– Jeffrey Paterson, 22
Masters of Architecture
For further details, please visit Jeff’s ‘Give a Little’ page here: https://givealittle.co.nz/cause/rise4patt