This story by Nick Wright was originally published in the Gold Coast Bulletin.
You would be hard pushed to find a couple who have embraced such a daunting challenge with more optimism than Ray Price and his wife Sandy.
And yet beneath their unashamedly positive outlook on their respective melanoma diagnoses comes an important message they have implored upon the community.
“If you don’t get checked you can only get disappointed,” says NRL legend Price.
“Make sure you always get checked.”
In a cruel coincidence, Price and Sandy have each suffered from the skin cancer — treated for stages three and four respectively.
They have battled the disease side-by-side for the past two years, and are confident there is now light at the end of the tunnel.
Now based on the Tweed Coast, the pair will take part in next Sunday’s Coolangatta Melanoma March to raise funds and awareness for what is one of Australia’s biggest killers.
Ahead of this weekend’s march in Brisbane, $650,000 has been raised, with the goal of $1m by the end of the two events to support a world-first personalised immunotherapy clinical trial for advanced melanoma patients.
Parramatta Eels great and Dally M Medal winner Price said he and Sandy would receive result of a recent PET scan after the May 29 event, and both are vocally positive about the results.
Thus far they have been off treatment for the past six months and “haven’t had a melanoma, touch wood, for that long”.
Price has embraced this chapter in his life much the same as he did throughout his rugby league days. It was simply another test for him, a chance to defy the odds.
However the 69-year-old called on the community to get skin checks every three months, or risk paying the price down the line.
“We’re very positive about the tests. If you’re not positive you’re always down, and when your body is down you’re down,” Price said.
“My wife was told she would die if she didn’t have treatment, with my bowel cancer (diagnosis in 2006) I was told to pack my things up, you won’t see the week out.
“You’ve got to approach it wholehearted, you can’t afford to miss anything. If you don’t have a challenge all the time you’re lying in bed all the time.
“The reason we really went public is if we can save someone else’s life, if they do what we say or listen to us, we can save their lives.
“Melanoma a cow of a thing, but when you get it you get it treated early you can beat them.”
After a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic and floods in the Northern Rivers region, the Coolangatta March will mark the end of the Melanoma Institute Australia’s national marches for the year in the organisation’s bid to fund the clinical trials.
Currently half of advanced melanoma patients do not respond to, or develop resistance to, the immunotherapy treatment which saves others.
The clinical trial is to test a Personalised Immunotherapy Platform designed to ensure these patients get effective treatment the first time, based on their own genetics and tumour biology. Australia has the highest melanoma rates in the world with one person diagnosed with the disease every 30 minutes. One Australian dies from melanoma every 6 hours, and it is the most common cancer affecting 20 to 39-year-old Australians.
Register for Melanoma March Brisbane or Coolangatta, or donate here