Thank you Mr. Speaker. Cancer is a terrifying word. We use it all the time in this place. We often use it to describe terrible things or sometimes terrible people. But what’s really terrifying is when a doctor says it and a couple of months ago a doctor said it to me. It was just after the election and I noticed a mole on my leg had changed colour. I’d always been paranoid about it, always asked doctors to check it and they always told me that it was ok. But I just noticed what I thought was a dark spot in the middle of the mole. I just thought something was wrong. So I made the decision to book an appointment to see my doctor. And it turns out it was probably the most important thing that I’ve ever done.
I went and saw the doctor and I told her that I thought the mole was changing colour and I was worried about it. She said well look let’s cut it off and check. She thought it was going to be ok. She said look if everything’s ok we’ll just get the office to ring you and tell you everything’s ok. Well a couple of days later they rang back with the pathology results and they didn’t tell me everything was ok. They said I had to book an appointment to see the doctor in a few days’ time and then I obviously knew what that meant. So I asked if they could put the doctor on the phone. They said she was in with a patient and so she couldn’t speak to me at that time. The next three and a half hours were probably the scariest three and a half hours of my life waiting for the doctor to ring back. She eventually did ring back, told me I had cancer, told me I had a malignant melanoma. But she also gave me some good news in a sense.
She told me that I’d caught it early and that’s important because the next step was that I had to go into hospital and I had to have some surgery and that it would about 52 stitches on my leg. The leg now looks like a shark’s had a crack at me. But the most important thing is I’m going to be ok. Here’s the really terrifying thing. About every half hour in Australia someone gets a phone call from their doctor like I did. Every half an hour someone in Australia gets told they’ve got a malignant melanoma. Every five hours someone in Australia dies from it. It’s a wicked disease. Let me tell you about a mate of mine in Melbourne called Jeff.
About the same time I was in hospital getting surgery Jeff got rushed to the local emergency department with what he thought was a pinched nerve in his neck. They rushed him into hospital and did a C.T. scan and they found two tumours wrapped around his spine and one in his lungs. Turns out it wasn’t a pinched nerve. It was stage four melanoma and they can’t find the primary source. They still can’t find the mole. Jeff’s younger than you or me he’s 40 years old. He’s got a 10 year old boy. He’s got twins who’ve just turned four.
Imagine going to hospital with what you think was a pinched nerve and being told you have got stage four melanoma and automatically thinking am I going to see those little girls grow up? Am I going to see their big brother grow up? What happened to Jeff if that happened 10 years ago that would have been a death sentence. He basically would have been told to go home and die but that’s not the case anymore. The survival rate for people with advanced melanoma has jumped rapidly in the last few years and that’s thanks to some extraordinary research and great new medicines. Jeff’s on two drugs one called Dabrafenib and the other one called Trametinib.
A few weeks ago the government extended the availability of these drugs under the PBS to people with stage three melanoma and I want to thank them from the bottom of my heart for doing that. These are drugs that I hope are not only going to save Jeff’s life but extending it to more people are going to save the lives of even more Australians. The bottom line though is this. This is a deadly disease. It kills more than 1500 Australians every year. And the best chance of beating it is if you get it early. If you catch it early. Which is what this campaign is all about – Game on Mole. It’s a truly Aussie campaign run by the Melanoma Institute of Australia and their message is take a photo of the moles on your body if you’re worried about them. Do it this summer before you hit the beach. Slip slop slap but also take photos of your moles and get a skin check. So for me to everybody watching this please do that. It’s what I did. I took photos. I went and saw the doctor. It saved my life. And you doing it might just save your life to.