Pictured above: Professor Daniel Galvão and Kate Lugg
A Merriwa champion, Kate Lugg, has become the face of our new appeal, urging West Australians to donate to Cancer Council WA and local research, after surviving stage four metastatic melanoma.
Kate shares it was a major shock to get a cancer diagnosis in 2021, as it was the same cancer that took her husband Nick, 20 years prior. During a routine skin check in 2004 with a skin specialist, a tiny red lump the size of a pinhead between Kate’s shoulder blades was found.
The specialist decided to err on the side of caution and have it removed and biopsied. The biopsy showed it to be stage four metastatic melanoma, but also revealed the specialist had removed the melanoma with a very clear margin.
Fast forward 17 years and Kate decided to see her GP, as she had noticed both her ankles were very swollen for several days. Scans then showed a mass on her duodenum and she was sent to a specialist the next day.
“Unfortunately, it seems I was in the small percentage where the melanoma from 2004 had sent a seed out before being removed. That then stayed dormant for years until my immune system was run down for a while”, Ms Lugg said.
After Kate’s scan, it was confirmed the cancer had spread. They found three lesions in her abdominal area, as well as tumours in both her lungs and brain. She started treatment within two weeks that included fortnightly immunotherapy.
“I was in the thick of my very first immunotherapy session on the oncology ward when I turned to my son, who came along for moral support, and said “you know what, I might have to imagine I’m Wonder Woman”. After the appointment, my son went to the shops, cheekily returning with a Wonder Woman figurine”, she said. Since that day, this figurine has been a reminder of her strength to get through cancer treatment.
Six months later Kate was in remission. “I wake up every day feeling grateful to be here”, she says. It’s only because of cancer research that Kate is able to share her story today. Kate urges people to consider donating to WA cancer research. “To remain positive, I try to get up each day and keep myself busy and my mind occupied. Which is why I signed up for Cancer Council WA’s Life Now online Meditative course”, Kate shares.
“This course made a world of difference to my mental health. It helped me to keep my sanity and remain focused. When I could control my worries and stress, I felt in control of my cancer. Once I had completed the course, I went on to sign up to the Life Now face-to-face Exercise course, which implements the vital research of Professor Daniel Galvão. With every session, I feel more like Wonder Woman”, says Kate.
Our Life Now courses implement expert advice from professionals in the field and cancer researchers, such as Professor Daniel Galvão.
“My research team and I work on the ‘Telex Study’, which delivers targeted exercise programs to cancer patients going through treatment, via face-to-face and online telehealth consultations. We then monitor how a patient’s exercise program impacts the effectiveness of their life-saving treatment. We are the first in the world to study this! It’s so exciting that because of generous Cancer Council WA donors, we can have ground-breaking research happening here in WA”, Professor Galvão shares.
Professor Galvão’s research shows how local investment in cancer research can result in real outcomes for West Australians impacted by a cancer diagnosis.
Cancer Council WA CEO, Ashley Reid, said Kate’s journey highlighted the importance in investing in cancer research.
“Back in the 30s and 40s a melanoma cancer diagnosis was often fatal”, Mr Reid said.
“But we’ve seen huge gains in screening, diagnosis and treatment all through investment in research, and survival rates are incredibly high now compared to the past. Cancer Council WA’s investment in local world-class research is all donor funded. In WA, we have invested more than $60 million dollars since 1963 on more than 1200 cancer research projects. We just simply couldn’t find ways to reduce the incidence and impact of cancer without that support from the community”, shares Ashley Reid.