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What cancer were you diagnosed with? I was diagnosed aged 24 with malignant melanoma.

What has helped you to thrive? I'm not sure I do always feel that I am thriving. The pressure on people to be "inspirational" when faced with cancer can be quite difficult. I do really enjoy my life, and just try to go with the flow in terms of treatments and keep doing things I'm passionate about rather than letting melanoma become my identity. I am incredibly lucky in having (in my opinion) the best husband, amazing friends and family, and a great hamster to cuddle!

Susanna's Story
Hello, I’m Suze and I’ve got melanoma that has spread to my liver. I was diagnosed with it aged 24 in 2015 and things haven’t really calmed down yet since that day! My diagnosis was probably delayed by false reassurances by doctors and others, a busy young professional lifestyle and difficulty getting to the GP. A mole doesn’t really feel like something that needs an emergency appointment. Working as a doctor doing crazy hours meant that I couldn’t just leave work for an appointment as my patients and their safety had to come first. I don’t blame anyone personally for this. It has just made me aware of some of the challenges faced by GPs and now I am planning to train to become one to try and improve access to healthcare from within.

Since diagnosis I have had 6 operations, scans every 3 months, and started on pembrolizumab (immunotherapy treatment). I have also got married, acquired my full license to practice as a doctor in the UK, bought a hamster and learned how to sew! The melanoma world is full of uncertainty (as is the cancer world) because all the drugs are so new that none of the doctors really know what will happen! 5 years ago I would have been told I had a few months to live with my liver mets. Now who knows…

The strange thing about immunotherapy is that it doesn’t have too many side effects as it doesn't work like traditional chemotherapy. So often us “melanoma lot” can carry on with our normal lives quite a lot in a way that other people on chemotherapy don’t have the opportunity to do. This means people can’t quite work out how ill I am or how serious it all is. But it also means I am so incredibly lucky to be doing what I want to do with my life to some extent, and not be defined by my illness. I’ve had to go part time at work because of fatigue, and my thyroid reacted to the treatment, but other than that things aren’t too bad physically at the moment. I think there are far more important things I want to focus on than melanoma. I am grateful to healthcare professionals for putting all this effort and energy into keeping me alive - now it is time to do something with that life! And make a dress!