Official launch of ACRF Melanoma Research Laboratories at The Westmead Institute for Medical Research. Facebook/The Westmead Institute for Medical Research

A NSW melanoma survivor has revealed how skin cancer specialists at the Australian Cancer Research Foundation (ACRF) Melanoma Laboratories at The Westmead Institute for Medical Research helped her through her ordeal.

Suzanne Hopkins-Fisher was first diagnosed with Stage 4 melanoma in June 2015. Her initial reaction was that of disbelief as she was not feeling sick. However, repeated tests returned similar results, and that is when she was referred to Dr. Matteo S. Carlino, who was then running a melanoma clinical trial at the Westmead Hospital.

Suzanne, who is a dental nurse by profession, has been on that trial for 12 months now. She has 12 more months in the program. Today, after remaining under constant care and supervision of her doctors at the ACRF Melanoma Laboratories, her tumours have steadily decreased in size and no new tumours have cropped up.

Her condition has improved significantly, thanks to the highly-advanced $5M melanoma research lab at Westmead Institute and its experts. The intense journey has made Suzanne extremely mentally strong. Suzanne said she is now more resilient, adaptable and tougher than she used to be. She undergoes regular blood tests, scans and treatment procedures and visits her doctors every three weeks.

Even though initially it took her some time to come to terms with her condition, she did not give up. She made up her mind that she would do whatever it takes to overcome her Stage 4 melanoma. She had to stop working. She couldn’t drive for three months after a surgery that removed two lesions from her brain.

“I was going to fight it. I wasn’t ready to die. My thoughts now are a lot clearer. I was terrified then, I could only think from week to week. Now I feel well. I’m a lot more hopeful and happy. Life’s good and I’m planning things for the future,” Suzanne told International Business Times Australia.

The 51-year-old mother of three boys also took special mention of professor Richard Kefford, medical oncologist and Director of the Westmead Institute for Cancer Research and Chair of the Division of Medicine at Westmead Hospital. He was a constant source of support for Suzanne who kept her updated about every little development and that went a long way in keeping her confidence up. She felt she could trust her body again. After many months of treatment, Suzanne now has a winning smile with a renewed appreciation for life.

She mentioned how her family and friends helped her through the tumultuous times. They were there to pick her up at her lowest and they are still standing by her, helping her, cooking for her, driving her around and supporting her in every way possible.

When asked if she has any word of advice for the young generation and people in general, Suzanne suggested never missing out on the sunscreen and more importantly, never thinking one cannot get melanoma.

“We now know that you need to wear sun block, cover up, wear a hat and sunglasses, so please do it! I come from a family where we have a lot of moles. So be vigilant, get them checked regularly and don’t think melanoma can’t happen to you,” she added.