Melanoma awareness marches into Rocky
AARON Kelly was 30 years old when he was diagnosed with stage three melanoma.
While training for his first half marathon, Mr Kelly noticed a lump under his arm which he passed off as a swollen sweat gland.
However, the lump continued to grow over weeks and Mr Kelly finally decided to seek medical advice at the urging of his wife.
"It turned out that I had a large tumour underneath my arm,” he said.
"From there I had all my lymph nodes underneath my right arm taken out and a full right axillary clearance.”
After weeks of nervous waiting, the pathology results finally returned that Mr Kelly had stage three melanoma, a form of skin cancer.
Being a town that year-round receives its fair share of sun, Rockhampton residents are at risk for high rates of melanoma.
Mr Kelly began treatment in Brisbane immediately, which included six to seven weeks of radiation.
"Being young with three young kids, to be told I had stage three cancer was a bit of a bombshell,” he said.
"I went through my treatment and I've sort of had a few setbacks since.”
A few weeks ago, Mr Kelly passed the five-year mark of living with stage three skin cancer in his body.
His arm has never been the same, but it's something he has learned to live with.
He has regular skin checks, scans and his bloods taken.
"At the end of the day it was a massive shock, but I've come through and doing something like the Melanoma March is promoting awareness about melanomas,” Mr Kelly said.
"The thing with melanoma is you don't know you've got it until it's too late.
"If I would have left it another few weeks, it might have passed to another organ.”
Last year, Mr Kelly participated in the Longest Melanoma March - from Brisbane to Sydney - alongside Melanoma Institute Australia community co-ordinator Jay Allen.
The event raised thousands of dollars and brought together survivors, families of those affected and people wanting to show their support.
The walk inspired him and a group of locals to bring the event to Rockhampton.
For the first time, Rockhampton will be holding a Melanoma March to raise awareness and provide an outlet for people to share their experiences or learn more about melanoma.
The march has been held at 21 locations across Australia with the aim of raising funds and finding a cure.
This year alone, 14,000 Australians will be told they have melanoma.
"(Melanoma) kills more young Australians aged 20-39 than any other cancer,” Melanoma Institute Australia CEO Carole Renouf said.
"This is why we are marching for a cure - but we can't do it alone.”
Funds raised will support the Big Data for Melanoma project, which is creating a register to record the treatment and outcomes of melanoma patients.
The register will service Australians all over the country and enforce best practice.
A new addition to the March this year will be colourful slap bands - one for patients who inspire others, one for family and friends to remember a loved one, and one for those wishing to show support.
"It's important we remember that those affected by melanoma are someone's mother or father, daughter or son, sibling or friend,” Ms Renouf said.
"The marches are one way to let them know they are not alone and that we're supporting them by working hard to achieve a future free of melanoma.”
The event will be running stalls serving drinks and light refreshments. A sausage sizzle will also be running on the day for a gold coin donation.
The event is on March 4 at Huish Dr. Registrations open on the day at 6.30am and the march will start at 8am.