When Abbey Lynch Griffiths, 19, leads out the Melanoma March at the Newcastle Foreshore this Sunday, her thoughts will be on her late father Jason.
Abbey’s father first experienced the symptoms of Stage IV melanoma in April of last year, when he began suffering from drowsiness, confusion and pain.
Although the symptoms were initially assumed to be associated with dehydration, scans revealed a number of tumours in his brain, which led to his melanoma diagnosis.
Jason underwent a series of surgeries, as well as radiation therapies and treatments, but Abbey’s father took a turn for the worst on Christmas Day in 2017, and on Boxing Day Abbey did something she had hoped never to experience – she had to say goodbye to her father in the ICU.
“As a 19 year old, this was the hardest thing I ever had to comprehend,” Abbey said.
Jason passed away, aged just 58, the next morning.
It will be in dedication to her father that Abbey sets off at 9am this Sunday, and the 19-year-old has named her walking team ‘Jason’s Sharks’ as part of the celebration of his life.
As well as her father, Abbey says she is walking for the 14,000 Australians who will be told they have melanoma this year, and believes anyone that can do anything in regards to furthering research for cures needs to step up.
“I really hope that through Melanoma March this year, people within the melanoma community including patients, carers and families, can see that they are never alone in their fight,” she said.
“My dad’s story is scary and confronting, as everything happened so fast, without much warning. But that is the nature of melanoma, and with a better understanding, hopefully one day people won’t have to suffer from this disease.”
Abbey wrote on her Melanoma Institute Australia fundraising page description that she hoped “one day there will be a better understanding of melanoma in the brain, and treatments”.
“I hope that through this fundraiser, the melanoma community knows they are not alone in their fight,” she also wrote.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Abbey had already raised $2,317 on the crowd-funding website, $317 more than her initial $2,000 target.
Abbey urged anyone who was thinking of registering for a Melanoma March in their area to “do your part”, and that it was “vital” to raise awareness and “life-saving funds to help find a cure for melanoma”.
This is the seventh annual Melanoma March, and the cause now has as many as 21 marches across the country.
Money raised through the charity drives are donated to the Big Data for Melanoma Project, which focuses on creating a critical register to record the treatment and outcomes of patients with melanoma, and to ensure everyone has the same standard of care to reduce deaths from this most dangerous form of skin cancer.
The organiser of this year’s Newcastle march, Joe Hamilton, lost his father to melanoma in 2016, and believes anyone that can offer anything to the cause is contributing to the “sense of community” the marches create.
“I am hoping that participants in our Melanoma March feel a sense of community, and realise there are others, including survivors and family, friends of those who have lost someone to this disease,” he said.
“I also hope that it creates an outlet for people to take action and raise some needed funds for melanoma research.”
For more information on how to register for the Newcastle Melanoma March on March 18, or to donate, go to mm2018-newcastle.gofundraise.com.au/cms/home.